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Who’s afraid of termination dust? Not me.

  • Author: Alli Harvey
    | Alaska Outdoors
  • Updated: October 12, 2017
  • Published October 11, 2017

A floatplane flies through the scene as termination dust challenges fall colors for attention in a view from Point Woronzof Road in October 2011. (Erik Hill / ADN archive)

My husband and I have been having an argument since August. You might not hear it unless you listen closely. It goes something like this:

Me, mid-August: "I love fall!"

My husband: "Me too, when it actually arrives, on Sept. 22."

Me, early September, surrounded by yellow aspens, electric blue sky, and fifty degree weather: "I love fall!"


Now that it's officially fall, the argument has evolved. I'm watching the termination dust sweep steadily down Pioneer Peak every day with giddy excitement. My husband has the seemingly more normal reaction of dread. I enjoy remarking loudly and contentedly that I'm so happy about the onset of an early winter. His reaction is louder and more irritated than a couple of months ago: "It's FALL."

Wait, before I lose you: I do occasionally interact with other humans, and use enough social media to realize my husband has a robust and vocal backup choir when it comes to his feelings on winter. I've seen the memes. "Winter is coming."

Termination dust is usually announced with a sense of foreboding. But I think my people are out there too, just not front and center. We realize we're perhaps in the minority. Or if, as Alaskans, we snow-loving people are actually the majority, we're just generally quieter about it. Quiet like the peaceful blanket of white snow we're looking forward to. With an aurora going overhead. Also, a bonfire. After a full day of skiing.

See, while this time of year is depressing for many people, all teasing aside it is an exciting time for me. Since I was little growing up back east, I've loved that feel of November — a feeling and aesthetic that sets in earlier in Alaska.

I've loved how I can see through the trees for the first time in months. I love the promise of snow, and the first day I breathe in through my nose and the air is sharp enough I can almost feel snow.

The Pumpkin Spice epidemic, I mean advertising craze, has picked up on a love of this time of year. Chalkboards outside of Starbucks advertise the lattes; air fresheners come in apple cinnamon chemical assortments that promise to trick me into thinking I'm cozy in my house when really I'm commuting. I saw a tongue-in-cheek advertisement for pumpkin-spice pizza once, which I appreciated.

Like any good curmudgeon, I firmly reject all of this nonsense. I like to think it was mine first. For me it's something along the lines of, if you like fall now, you should really check out its earlier stuff.

The best features of this time of year, depressing to many but thrilling to me, are:

— Seeing the mountains through the trees. Sure, the pretty yellow birch leaves are now matted and wet on the ground. But they smell nice — if that kind of woodsy-decay smell is your thing like it is for me. I think the fragrance pairs quite nicely with sweeping vistas, of which there are now many with no more leaves to impede my line of sight.

— The aurora. There have been some major spikes in activity lately. If you check the University of Alaska Fairbanks' Geophysical Institute's Aurora Forecast obsessively, as I do, you will notice that on Thursday night the northern lights are expected to be out in full force. Of course, with the rainy weather we've been having recently in Southcentral, I have not personally been privy to many of these displays — but my friends in Fairbanks and farther north have been sharing some photos that make me jealous.

— The sense of relief after summer. This time of year, before the darkness really settles in, it is finally OK for me to be at home and reading by 8 p.m. Contrast this with mid-summer, when on any given nice evening I am either on a mountain somewhere or gazing out my window into the sunshine feeling guilty I'm not out on a mountain somewhere. On the one hand, I love adventure and midnight hiking. On the other hand, I love sleep, which I am finally catching up on.

So, for all of the quiet late fall/early winter sympathizers and enthusiasts out there — I'm with you.

And for everyone else, be glad you don't live with me. I'd taunt you like I do my husband.

Alli Harvey lives in Palmer and plays throughout Southcentral Alaska.

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