Summer was a blur. I can’t tell you exactly what happened. Some people asked me to go do a thing on some river, I said yes. I got it into my head one afternoon that the coming weekend would be a good one to backpack, so we did. I spent countless afternoons on the back porch, and as many evenings out on my bike in the woods.
Now, I could probably tell you exactly what I was doing last week at this very time.
As the daylight wanes, ritual is taking over.
Fall. It’s about methodically stacking wood and putting food away in evenly stacked jars. It’s about setting the alarm clock to make sure I wake up at a reasonable hour, because it’ll still be dark. And it’s about setting up routines to make sure I continue getting outside, even after it stops being pretty.
We’re not quite there yet in the Valley, but you know it’s right around the corner: that time of year after all the leaves have blown but before snow. Things start to feel a little weird, maybe a little dark and desperate. Driving at night, especially in my neighborhood, headlights are drowned quickly in the darkness and without any snow to reflect back light. Winter’s looming, with even more night and cold right around the corner.
I love it.
Someone told me when I first got into Alaska that at the first sight of fall, everyone takes a deep sigh of secret relief. Finally, it’s time to go inside and read a book. There’s no worry that we won’t get in enough summer while it’s actually here.
I am hurling myself into ritual. As someone who was born 30 years old, the comforting responsibility of neatly planned activities throughout the week makes me feel secure and content. The fact that the activities are in Alaska’s outdoors is the only thing that keeps me from being completely boring.
I’m riding my bike to work at least once a week. I enjoy the fixed outdoor exercise, and the sense of accomplishment by the time I get to the office before I’ve even started my workday. The chill on my nose is pleasant, and I get to eat an extra-big breakfast, which is a core value of mine.
I have a standing Tuesday night running date with a friend. We’ve picked it back up. We are both hyper-reliable and exercise-addicted, and she doesn’t mind running slow with me because she’s just trying to accrue miles. Even though I strongly prefer running in the early morning before I’ve eaten, I run with her because it’s fun, it’s routine, and ultimately it always makes me happy.
Finally, I am putting in the effort to actually put this thing together I’ve heard of: a “strength-training plan.” I know. Maybe it’s my body whispering to me that I won’t be able to run forever — no one’s knees are that good — or just my desire to feel strong and fit through the winter. This pursuit of strength training has the added benefit of being exciting and new; something to inspire me even into the darker days and to be proud of as I figure it out.
At the end of all of the routine, or maybe a key part of it, is autumn’s cozy-up and hunker-down feeling. It’s our wood stove getting fired up for the first time this season and the blankets being pulled out. Snow is tantalizing in the forecast and already sticking up high. I’m rooting for it. I love the frenzy of the summer we’re leaving behind it, but this season feels most true to me.
Alli Harvey lives in Palmer and plays in Southcentral Alaska.