The clear golden light of the morning is a pleasant ruse for the temperature which is somewhere between brisk and snappy. I dash back inside and put on my jacket. I’m confused because it’s sunny out. Then it hits me: Fall has landed in Ketchikan, Alaska.
The steam curls from the wooden steps of the boardwalk street I call home. At the top of the sixty-seventh step, I turn around for the view looking over the tops of the downtown buildings and on east down the Narrows. Steam is also rising from the roofs, but otherwise the air is perfectly clear. To the west—what we call out north—a little pouf of smoke hangs over someone’s fire as they burn salmonberries.
I collect my mail and head back down and on. As I walk, a decided stink in the air pulls me sharply out of my reverie and announces that I am approaching the creek. The gulls ecstatically disagree with the attitude behind my wrinkled nose. It’s raucous down in the creek. To the birds the creek smells deliciously of free salmon—salmon with no fight: the ones who couldn’t. And hey, who doesn’t like free salmon?
Some guy falls in step beside me. He tells me about how he had been laid off of work. “So I set up out north and caught fish. I smoked two hundred pounds of salmon and sold it.” He moves on with the easy comfortable air of a man with a full freezer.
Yes, fall is here. And if there is a need for more proof, the calendar hurdles toward the second Monthly Grind of the season. The second. Monthly Grind—for those who don’t know—is the means by which two hundred and fifty plus locals scooch together tightly in the Saxman long house to keep warm. We sing and make merry. It’s a sort of organized open mic with dessert. Five dollars or a dessert donation gains admittance. It’s down home, it’s local, it’s grand. The gist of Monthly Grind is to seat oneself strategically so that when intermission is called a quick and effective lunge to the dessert line is achieved. Twelve-year-old boys are experts at the dessert table strategy. I’ve seen it time and again and have tried to get it down.
The last proof to offer for those who still wonder when summer is coming is how the apetites are sharpening. Fall signals the necessity to put on a good winter layer. The bears do it. They’ve polished off the berries and salmon and are heading off for the winter sleep. I’ve got my winter pop tart stash but could use some more smoked salmon.