The View from Mattie’s Pillow

Here in the Interior, we’re having unusually hot and humid weather. Usually our air is dry, which makes both hot and cold temperatures more bearable, but now we’re in wildfire season, and, all throughout the Interior boreal forests, fires are burning and smoke drifts across the valleys and up the riverways, bringing with it humidity and the lingering smell of wood smoke. Looking out across the valley, the hills and the jagged tops of spruce trees fade into a blue-gray haze and the air feels heavy to move through and breathe.

Still it’s not as bad as it was a few years ago, when the smoke of six million acres of fires hung over the Interior for nearly a month and people stayed inside or went out with scarves or facemasks over their mouths and noses to keep from breathing the air. That summer, during the worst days, Mattie and Sam would stretch out flat in the sand of the corral to nap, stay cool, and breathe the clearer air along the ground. This isn’t nearly as bad as that.

We’re not used to heat here—85 above zero is hot for us—and it’s a bit debilitating. And we know that these long sunny days (it still never gets totally dark here and won’t till the first week in August) are a brief respite from winter and we want them to be perfect so we can spend as much of our time outdoors as we can—on the rivers, at fish camp, at night baseball games, hiking, gardening, riding. This clear but smoky weather is supposed to stretch into next week, and, though we complain about the heat and smoky haze, we’ll complain more when it finally rains if the rain lasts more than a day. We want it all.

Which is one answer to any questions those of you outside Alaska may have about our soon-to-be-former governor’s recent erratic behavior. In summer, Alaskans are manic, frantically trying to accomplish as much as possible: gathering firewood, catching fish for winter, gardening, and trying to fit in as much fun as possible. We don’t sleep much, not only because of the light, but because we know we have to get it all in before the rainy days of August or the first frost of September. Our summer is driven by winter. So, perhaps, this has affected the governor, too. Sarah’s gone fishing, and we’ll be picking up the pieces in Alaska for some time to come.

In the mean time, there’s mulching, dealing with slime mold, staking tomatoes, composting horse manure, riding and training, getting in some trail rides, barbecuing on the deck, and sitting in the first base bleachers at the Goldpanners baseball games, tooting out the tune of Happy Boy on kazoos during the seventh-inning stretch. Smoke or no, Sarah or no, summer is good.

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