By Janelle Eklund
A hot wind blew down the Tonsina River valley lifting bluff silt that was born from the Wrangell mountains thousands of years ago. The air was heavy with it obscuring the view of mountain peaks. I swear the temperature was likened to a hot desert wind in the 90°s F. Surely it wasn't that hot but it felt like it. My only gauge was the memory of travels in the hot Utah and Arizona deserts.
Warm temperatures permeated the month of May enticing some plants to spring forth early and take advantage of hot dry days.
In my mind I could hear the dance start in rhythm to Tchaikovsky's symphony beginning with a profusion of purple Pasqueflowers - some popping up in unlikely places. Lupine joined in their blue fluted dress. Delicate calypso orchid spread their fairy slipper pinkness here and there. It got contagious. Joining the dance, in jumped elf like creamy Pumpkin Berry flowers. Jacobs Ladder in blue billowing skirts joined the merry circle. Tiny greenish Soapberry flowers marched in on woody stems. Snow Potentilla twirled around in their bright yellow tutus. Smiley faced yellow Arnicas pirouetted like a pinwheel on a stick. Languid Ladies gracefully bowed their bluebell heads. Bearberry's dangling white bell earrings tiptoed around the forest floor. Labrador Tea, Highbush Cranberry and American Dogwood donned snowy white headdresses tipping in the breeze. Deep Pink Rose permeating the air with its sweet scent. Pale purple bird wings floated in on Alpine Milk Vetch. Artemisia lined the bluffs and roadsides with green fragrant leaves. Eskimo Potato and Wild Sweet Pea tap danced in deep pink frocks, lining roadsides.
And then on May 31, May began to melt. A hint of clouds started shielding the blue sky and the hot sun peaked in and out. The dancers were getting tired in the heat. Clouds covered the sky June first and bits of rain fell here and there throughout the valley. Temperatures dropped to the 50°'s and 60°'s F. We willed the rain to wet the forest and gardens. It came during the day and it came during the night in spurts. Plants drank in the rain as fast as it fell. Rain cleaned the dust of May making plants shimmer in wetness and exposing earthy scented perfumes.
Red flag fire warnings were lifted giving the trees another reprieve and homeowners a sigh of relief.
By June first, rushed plants already show signs of ending the season. Some lupine are turning their flowers into seeds. Rose petals are falling to the ground. What will the rest of the summer bring? Will the high 70°'s and 80°F return? It is a mystery.
Whatever summer brings we will enjoy the sun, be patient with the wind and grateful for it blowing away mosquitoes, be thankful for the rain, and intoxicate ourselves with earthy smells.
From my light to yours-
Who We Are
WISEfriends are several writers connected with Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment, a nonprofit organization located in Alaska's Copper River Valley. Most of these articles originally appeared in our local newspaper, the Copper River Record.