This is the moody time of year for the creep of termination dust, defined as earliest snow on the mountains. It starts about the end of August and plays with us the full month of September. In October, it gets real. The snow pack sometimes advances slowly and sometimes it just leaps forward. On Pioneer Peak and Matanuska Peak (or Byers Peak) the termination dust initially appears as decorative powdered sugar on the cupcake. Eventually it turns into a thick white frosting which begins to drip down the flanks and into the crevasses. Over on smaller mountains the snow flirts in a daily visit and melts again in the still-warm noontime sun. We, as a community, determine our seasonal status by the termination dust’s snowy positioning around our Palmer mountains.
Thin Time of the Year—Palmer’s October is the thinnest and weakest time of the year for many reasons. This is the time when weakened twigs can no longer hold on to the leaf. Branches release their heavy fruit. The tall grasses and shrubs of summer bend to their knees and then fall to ground in weariness. Bedding plants struggle to maintain a presence but soon succumb to the cooling earth in a heap. Boisterous flower blooms droop and crackle into a million pieces. Seed pods pop open and release their contents. Palmer’s sunflowers bend over at weird angles and surrender to the ground like broken sculptures.
The strong and glorious colors of our Palmer autumn start to dull and fade, and we begin to sense the thinness of the season. It is still full of wonder but we are now in a state of cautious anticipation for the full turning of the year into winter. It is interesting that we celebrate the thinnest time with a fattest turkey and bulk bags of cheap halloween candy, as if the caloric intake will fill us up, as we wait for the snow season.
Also still as we treasure our summer memories, we often feel the bittersweet melancholy that marches with us in October. It is no accident that many religions and cultures celebrate holy days of remembrance at this time of year. It is said that this is the easiest and most significant time of year to reach out to our ancestors and loved ones for guidance and connection.
Four Seasons in One Palmer Day—This autumn thinning gives us a slight sample smorgasbord of weathers—all in one day. Early morning feels fallish with the mists and touch of frost. After lunch, with full sun, feels warm and summery, even without a sweater. Early evening gold makes the grass greener than springtime. And when the dark comes, earlier and earlier, we get that reality check of winter.
Daily Alaska Train—Every day, on the online Facebook version of THE ALASKA BUZZ, I offer up a daily count of the Alaska passengers on the Corona-Covid railcar line. My analogy of a viral train-ride isn’t making light of the situation. Nor is it an invitation to argue. I am stating the published numbers for our own awareness.
Since the beginning of October over 2000 Alaskans have identified with COVID-19. That is statewide. In the more specific Palmer area our total is over fifty. That is fifty—OF OUR OWN—as Palmer area passengers now on the virus train.
We must recognize that these people are local neighbors, friends, teachers, students and first responders. We hope the train-ride will be short and easy for all. And for some, the ride will be painless. For some it will be only an annoyance. For some it will be severe and life changing. But for others, it may be a death journey.
Please be careful out there. Do the stuff. Be smart. And please, if you can, DO NOT hop aboard the Covid train ride. In fact, don’t even go in the train station.
Barbara Hunt is both Palmer writer and artist. She works hard to keep the robust pulse of Palmer, Alaska. She shares the good stuff in the weekly Palmer Alaska Buzz Column in the Mat Su Valley Frontiersman and daily on the Palmer Alaska Buzz Facebook Group. Her “Palmer Buzz Community Calendar” is available at Palmer shops and museum. Contact at email@example.com or text 907.315.3222