My wise sister-in-law once said that the weather in Kodiak is an abusive relationship.
It’s usually windy and rainy and cold and terrible, but when there’s a sunny day we all lose our minds about how beautiful it is here and keep telling each other that days like these are why we continue to cling to this rock in the middle of the ocean.
Of course, Alaska is having a bit of a drought this year and we’ve actually had lots of gorgeous, endless sunny days that stretch late into what ought to be the night.
This is a place of extremes. If the winter is dark and cold, the summer makes up for it with a forest that comes alive with vibrant electric green and with wild food so abundant that there’s enough for everyone take some home for the winter.
Bleak winters where nothing will grow at all are replaced by summers where suddenly Everything. Is. Food. and the main local pastime is preserving, and pickling, and smoking, and freezing.
The rivers are full of shining salmon and the forest brambles are filled a huge variety of berries I’d never heard of before I moved here.
While the island is bursting with summer abundance, the population of town changes too.
Visitors from all over the world traipse down our streets. They come to see the bears and the reindeer and the halibut that can break your knees. You can recognize them by clothes that are both too new and too clean.
Workers travel here from far away to process fish in the canneries and languages I can’t name ripple in the alleyways and in the cannery yards.
But as soon as the salmon start to head for their rivers the fishing fleet heads out to catch them.
They leave the harbor–usually a tangle of masts and stacks and rigging–echoingly empty except for the sea lions and the occasional boat that comes limping back into town for repairs.
Some boats don’t return to town until the fireweed turns blood red for the fall.
I’m lucky. Nic tends to bring the boat home about every two weeks to rest for a few hours, restock the food, and to let the crew out of their tiny house style living quarters so they can wash their clothes and wash the jellyfish off their skin and out of their beards.
For me, summer in Kodiak, as much as it is endless berries and fresh fish and green forests… Summer is watching the sea that spreads seemingly-infinite and gray away from my home in every direction. It’s watching the tides pull in and out of the channel and listening to the rain on the window panes and the wind rushing in around my door and hoping that on the other side of the island in some cove somewhere the wind is quiet and our crew and their captain are sleeping.
Summer’s nearly over now. The fireweed is bleeding on the mountainsides and the berries have mostly gone.
And I’m counting the days until the last shimmering salmon leaves the bay and beats itself up the river to breed and die where it was born.
And the boats come home to fill the harbor again.
Give me rain and venison stew and nights that come down fast and early. And mist that cuts us off from the world and turns this island into Avalon. Give me candles in the window and my husband in his father’s workshop tying our own fishing net together by lamplight.
I’ve had enough of sunlight.
Give me autumn.
Give me deepest winter.