Warmth in Autumn

Karen Wills

Autumn signifies change, always from warm to frosty. Retired and living just outside Glacier National Park, I think of tourists leaving, aspen turning gold, and larch raring up in lime- green, then pumpkin-color before giving up their needles altogether.

Humans change our colors, too. Russets and burgundies replace the pinks and yellows of spring and summer. People and nature blaze as though celebrating heat itself, then concede to the pastels of winter’s palette.

Another change is, of course, the start of school. I’ve always loved it: new teachers, students, subjects, textbooks, and supplies. I loved it for myself and my children. I always had such fun gazing down from my second story window as I dressed for work, and seeing their junior high marching band (the school one block away) strutting down our street in practice, their teacher alongside, looking pleased with himself, them, the crisp and promising morning.

And I loved teaching. The last stint of that was four years in Wales, Alaska, an Inupiaq subsistence village on the tipIMG_0175 of the Seward Peninsula on the Bering Strait. Fish are still hung to dry on racks there, nets put out for salmon, reindeer corralled once a year. The tundra is vast and empty. Winter is unforgiving. But the treeless land has its wonders. Autumn colors are in the grass, salmon berries, and blueberries.

After our first year or two the villagers would greet us with, “Welcome home, Jerry and Karen.” And at the annual Kingikmiut Dance Festival which occurs every September, bringing Eskimo dancers from all over the region to perform, drum, visit, and eat Eskimo food at the school gym, Faye Ongtowasruk, the most senior and respected elder in the village, invited me to join her and others in the Invitational Dance that started the festival. The honor and acceptance it signified warmed me thoroughly against the coming Arctic winter.
What warms you in autumn?

2 thoughts on “Warmth in Autumn

  1. I love the crispness in the air. Of course, in Montana there is always a crispness in the air in early morning, but growing up in Texas, it was only found on autumn mornings. Our horses were always frisky then, and morning rides felt like they had an extra “air” of adventure to them. Deborah

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