Sunday, September 23, 2007

When Fall Doesn't Fall

tundra autumn7

Fall has definitely arrived in Atqasuk! Basically, the only difference between autumn in the Arctic and the lower forty-eight (contiguous states) is timing. For one thing, it begins much earlier here. All those deep, delicious autumnal colors pour themselves across the tundra long before the calendar ever makes it official. Another difference is duration. The season may last three months for much of the world, but in Atqasuk the transition from fall to winter is fleeting and often difficult to define. Temperatures, having fluctuated between 30 and 80 degrees during the summer months, begin to plummet. By September, the grasses and leaves adorning the tundra are jewel-toned brush strokes painted by nature's cooling hand. With the thermometer registering between 20 and 40 degrees, the air has a snap to it. The almost constant wind is heavy with the scent of Labrador tea. September mornings often shimmer with a fresh dusting of snow and the delicate glint of frosted grass tinged by salmon-colored sunlight. Of course, there is another difference between fall on the tundra and elsewhere...nothing actually "falls" here. Having no trees, the descriptive term coined for this time of year is slightly wasted. Even the willows (knee-high, yet the tallest of local vegetation) don't really drop their leaves in step with the season. They retain their foliage through the winter months until snow, wind, and sub-zero temperatures eventually strip them bare. So, in this corner of the world, fall doesn't fall. It ripens and deepens and tastes like wild berries, but all of that happens very close to the ground. And, in a land where life is so intimately connected with the earth, it seems that is just as it should be.

Cranberries2

This photo captures wild cranberries minutes (maybe even seconds!) before they made their way to my mouth! This is a very tart berry, but it's my favorite of all the tundra berries. My friend, Gail, makes WONDERFUL cranberry sauce every year and shares it with me at Thanksgiving and Christmas! The short-leafed plant growing in and around the cranberries (looks sort of like pine) is Labrador tea. Not only does it look like pine, but it has a very strong fragrance that is undeniably evergreen. When the wind is just right, I can close my eyes and actually imagine a pine forest right there on the treeless tundra!

Wild Cranberries

Don't you wish you could take a bite? Be careful...they might make you pucker!

17 comments:

Steve said...

Very cool blog here, Kimberlee! It looks and sounds great.

Kimberlee said...

Thanks for your help, Steve! We'll see how it goes. :)

Peggy said...

Nice! Good job! Love the photo, too!

nenana said...

welcome to the blogsphere! i miss you!!!!~robanne

Kimberlee said...

Hi, Peggy! Thanks so much for all the encouragement!

Kimberlee said...

Robanne!!! How ARE you? We're getting doused with wet snow today. How about you guys? Thanks for stopping by! I MISS YOU TOO!

Anonymous said...

Kimberlee!!!
How cool is this! I love it. I am at work now and don't have much time to look around yet, but will look more when I get home. You look fantastic! How come you aren't aging and I am??? hmmmmm. I really love this. I wish I could get one going. What a great way to get the news out!
Again....love it!
Love,
Renee (and Phoebe too...she is still talking up a storm!)

Kimberlee said...

Renee! Thanks so much for checking out my new project. I am so glad to hear that Phoebe is still hanging in there! Sounds like she's still bossy as ever! I wish I could agree with you about the aging thing (fat chance), but living in a natural refrigerator has got to be good for something, huh? Keeps the fruit fresher? LOL
Please, come back and visit...it's great to hear from you.

Anonymous said...

Back again this morning Kimberlee, just checking to see if you added any more pics. You could always use photography as a second career. Your pics are beautiful! I guess I could turn down my a/c so I won't age!!! You do look great and so glad things are going good for you. Keep in touch. Maybe one day I will build one of these things. Great way to share photos and stuff.
Lots of love,
Renee

Renee said...

Ooopps...that wasn't supposed to be anonymous...sorry!!

Steve said...

I just saw your survey for traditional Eskimo foods. Sounds lovely, but wouldn't you know it...I just started a cetacean-free diet. Too bad.

Kimberlee said...

Renee, thanks for your encouraging comments! You really should start a blog of your own! You could fill it with all your babies! Ask Phoebe, I'm sure she'd happily be the star! Seriously, though, I AM hoping it'll be a way to share photos and events with family & friends in a more consistent way. And, it's something fun to do that doesn't feel like work (at least not yet!). Take care and stay in touch! :)

Kimberlee said...

Oh, so sorry Steve. That is unfortunate about your prohibitive diet. I had a box of maktaq all ready to send you! :)

pineyflatwoodsgirl said...

Wow! an Alaska blog. I am wild for Alaska. Is it true the odds are good but the goods are odd? YOu are really far up there.

Kimberlee said...

Hi, PFWG! You asked if what they say about Alaskan "goods" is true...I'm reluctant to say that it's an indisputable fact, but it certainly FEELS true from where I'm sitting! LOL Thanks for visiting!

Rose Mary said...

Hello,

Nice to see some of your talents on the web for others to see. Photography and writing.

Love Ya,
Rm

Kimberlee said...

Thank you, RoseMary. I'm really glad that you like the new blog. I'm thinking (hoping) it will be a lot of fun. Let me know what Cader thinks! :)