I used to say that when I could --that is when I quit teaching school-- I would leave Alaska during October. The dark, wet fall of the eastern Kenai Peninsula is dank and depressing like no other time of year. The long stretches of rain and flood, the deep darkness of nights without stars, moon or snow are the darkest time of year. Even the October holiday, Halloween, is not my cup tea though I honor those who embrace this celebration of death and branched trees standing skeleton like in the dripping forest full of shadow, clothed in mourners colors of black, brown, and grey.
I wanted to be somewhere and be dry and light during October, camping in the Valley of Gods or hiking the Gila Wilderness, but here I am during the third week of October, looking out at the rain driving against the window and behind it the dark silhouette of the willows with the last wilted leaves clinging to the branches like used Kleenex.
If I had packed my bags and grabbed a middle seat on some southbound redeye what would I miss? The rain ‘heavy at times’? The wind gusting to 55 mph like it is today? Repeated flood advisories, warnings, watches? Would I miss soggy newspapers and scattered porch debris? Maybe even the two trick or treaters that manage to find my house?
But I didn’t leave, and instead, I was here when the swans blew in on a storm honking their horns like they had won the election, their wings big as sails. Instead, I was here when the eagles quarreled over the salmon on my yard and the flocks of migrating ducks came by to feed on the rich lake margins and stay until the last storm before the ice comes. I was here when I could walk the lake trail and see deep into the forest because the umbrella-sized devils club turned to gold then dropped to rot in the mossy forest floor. I was here to bounce my grandson on my knee and meet his cousins at the bus. I was here for saunas and firewood fetching and watching Molly cut the last flowers from Nana’s garden.
I got to drink coffee with my gal on the world’s best porch and watch the otters play on our dock, cavorting and looking over their shoulders like neighbor kids who know they aren’t supposed to be there. I got to putter in my shop or write through the morning. I got to be in this place where I've been longer than I’ve been anywhere else and there’s a good reason for that.
Yeah, it’s still dark and wet and depressing like no other month but soon it will pass and after those two treat-or-treaters come to share my bowl of Reeses Cups on Halloween, we’ll be into the cold, windy November. And who wants to miss that?