This morning I awoke to discover August had come a day early. The raindrops tapping on my metal roof made the proclamation, heralding the approach of fall. Well, not real fall, as in fall colors and rutting bull moose fall, but "fall" in the sense of no more summer.
This event is a noticeable shift in weather patterns. The high pressure dominated, sunny days of summer have now become low pressure, cloudy, windy and wet. From this point forward, you won't see many people wearing shorts and t-shirts. Jeans and sweatshirts will now rule the days' wardrobe choices.
Some call this season "fall". Some call it "early fall". To me it is "August". The term "Fall" is used only for that most wonderful of seasons, when the woods and hills are alive with color, when a chill is in the air, when the moose are on the move. That is FALL, and it's a pleasure to speak the word. A drippy, rainy, gray day like today is merely August; a season I must endure until fall arrives; a derogatory word I utter in contempt.
It's funny how the worst weather of the year is followed by the best; the most unpleasant season preceding the finest.
Why does August have 31 days? Five or six would be more than enough.
Behold the beauty! FIREWEED. The stereotypical Alaskan wild flower. The Forget-me-not may be the official state flower (I think) but Fireweed is the real one. If you check out Alaskan post cards, you'll see a ton of fireweed and maybe zero forget-me-nots.
Fireweed is a weed, but when it's in full bloom (like right now) it's a work of art. Absolutely spectacular!
P.S. This photo was taken at our local dump. Any flower that can make a dump look this good is tops with me!
The boy looked better than the last time I saw him. Well, I guess I shouldn't call him a boy. He's two inches taller than me and his voice is as deep as mine. But he's still a minor with much to learn in life, which has a lot to do with the improved appearance.
A couple of months ago he looked worse. I met him in a hallway as he was headed outside; his two escorts walking him to a waiting car so they could catch their plane to Fairbanks. The escorts were dressed in blue. He was wearing his regular clothes. He was also sporting a handcuff/shackle outfit you expect to see on terrorists and mass murderers, not on a minor picked up for under age drinking. His wrists closely bound to a heavy leather waist belt. These in turn were chained to his ankles; also bound, allowing only small baby-steps.
That day he looked worse than I had ever seen him. He feebly offered me his hand, which I shook, as he said "See ya later".
"Take care of yourself" was my parting advice.
After a couple of months in a treatment program he has returned.
"Things are going to be different" he assured me yesterday.
I put some salmon in my little Bradley smoker yesterday. It took longer to finish than I had anticipated...a lot longer! I was finally able to shut it down and hug my pillow sometime after 4am. So today I'm wiped out.
A barge was due in last night. Currently it is MIA. I'm hoping it shows pretty soon 'cause it's carrying a load of dog food for my hungry buddies. If this becomes my final post you may assume the barge (and dog food) didn't arrive in time to prevent a mutiny in the dog yard, and I shall have become a meal for the rebels.
My wife got hollered at for , well, nothing really. A local airline agent decided to blame her (and me) for a piece of freight that went missing last week. Don't look for a logical reason why he would make this assumption; none exists. This type of erratic and unpleasant behavior is ALL TOO COMMON.
I'm still tired. Perhaps I'll go to bed early and dream of chocolate. Mmmmmm!
I sat there, seated in a chair by his side, for three hours. The pretext for my being there, holding his hand, was to prevent him from bending his wrist and pulling on the I.V.. But that was secondary. What he really needed more than I.V. supervision was comfort, encouragement and support.
This young man is a known fighter. He can do more pull-ups than any one I know. And he's tough. He won't back down; from a fight or from a roof deep in snow and needing shovelling. Either way, he's a scrapper, which is why I found myself standing in the clinic looking into his abdomen. The bleeding from the fresh knife wound had slowed but the hole was unmistakable. Aware of his pugilistic reputation and seeing the wound, I had only one question needing an answer...
"Who stabbed him?" I ask the man who had been first on the scene.
"Which one?" I ask back. I desparately hope he does not say the name I now hear...and that's what hurts. Now it's my turn to feel the knife; piercing my emotions and stabbing my heart.
His brother is a young man I know well and care about deeply. He's also been traveling down the wrong road for some time now. We are friends. We talk. We respect each other. But that changes nothing. He is free to make as many bad choices as he wants, and lately he's been making a lot of them. The result of those choices I am now looking at; a hole in his brother's side.
I told you this guy was tough; that's why his bro' needed the knife. So I spend a few hours by his side while we wait on the med-evac plane.
He's in a lot of pain. Every breath, every time he inhales, it's like he gets stabbed all over again. For three hours he endures this suffering, until the plane arrives and the medics shoot a dose of morphine into his I.V.
We load him on the plane and he's on his way to the hospital. Thankfully, he'll make it.
His brother will soon be off on his own trip; to jail. He may be gone for several years. I'll hope and pray this will be what it takes to straighten out the twisted path his life has taken, but it will continue to hurt. Long after his brother's side has healed, I will feel this pain.
In some ways life is like riding on a train. We are are continually moving ahead on a one-way journey. For each of us this train makes only one stop; when we get off.
Every day brings a new view out the window. Even when life seems mundane and repetitious, each day is new, bringing fresh opportunities. It's a good idea to remember the train won't back up, so we need to grasp every moment and use it wisely.
Living in a "subsistence culture" along a wild northern river brings daily reminders. The driftwood floating by in the spring will soon be gone. The window of opportunity for gardening is very short. A run of fish can come and go in a single night. Repeatedly we live in a "now or never" moment; if the opportunity is lost we may have to wait until next year, if it comes at all.
King salmon are passing by on their journey to their spawning grounds. These fish are the most important specie to local people, making king salmon fishing the biggest activity of the summer. Much work, money and time is invested annually to harvest them. But this year the run is down and the closures have severly limited the ability to catch them.
Last night it was "opened" to fishing. It will close again tonight. Some were out all night working the water, knowing this may be the last chance they get. Others are out there now. Those who are successful will cut the fish and begin the smoking/drying process. A valuable harvest is not to be wasted.
Yet some will fail to take advantage of this opportunity. Laziness, lack of preparation, drug/alcohol abuse and other factors will stand in their way. Will these individuals later regret their poor choices? Or will they look into their empty freezer or smokehouse and blame their lack of fish on the poor run, government controls, high fuel costs or other excuses? Time will tell; I'll likely hear about it, eventually.
I wonder how many similar opportunities are squandered in this life as we ride along looking out the window. A moment, an experience or a day wasted, once gone, is gone for ever. There is no going back; this train doesn't stop.
The "flip-side" is that tomorrow brings more chances; more opportunities. Every day, from this minute until we get off the train, we are blessed with nearly limitless opportunities waiting to be siezed.
The kings are followed by the silvers, giving another chance to fill freezers and smokehouses. If the salmon berries are missed, the blueberries may soon be ripe. And if we fail today, we can get up and try again tomorrow, because, as a woman who made a lifetime of bad choices once said, "Tomorrow is another day!"