In the week since I’ve taken the above photo, the fireweed has nearly bloomed itself out. If you grew up here, you measure summer by the fireweed blossoms. In spring, the fireweed sprouts and begins to bud, shooting up several feet into the sky. By early summer, the lowest buds on the plant have bloomed pinkish-purple and you begin to notice them in the fields and on roadsides. By midsummer, the fireweed has overtaken fallow fields and roadsides. But if you look closely, you’ll notice that the tips of the fireweed still haven’t bloomed yet.
As summer fades, the fireweed fades as well. By the end of July, the tips of the fireweed begin to bloom, and the earliest flowers on the plant go to seed, splitting open and releasing feathery white puffs. That’s how you know that summer is ending.
We’re in that stage now. Summer is coming to a close. The past week has been rainy and full of unusual thunderstorms (Fairbanks doesn’t get a lot of thunderstorms, but we’ve had plenty lately). The roadsides are starting to fade, the bright pink/purple hue of fireweed diminishing into green and thin purple seed pods that will begin to release their white feathers soon.
It’s always been a bittersweet time of year for me. A lot of Alaskans endure the winter to enjoy the summer, and I’ve always been one of those. I think I’ve mentioned on this blog before, but I’m a summer-sport kind of girl, not being one to go snowmachining or skiing or anything like that. With the exception of running out of doors in the winter, my ideal winter day is spent curled up next to the fireplace with a good book.
That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the beauty of winter–it is beautiful, but it’s also cold in more than just the literal sense. It’s isolating and frigid, it’s exhausting and terrifying. But that’s a post for another time of year.
Now, I want to enjoy the last dregs of summer, gearing up for that winter chill which will inevitably steal fall from Fairbanks and descend before anyone is truly ready.