Something about fall always makes me feel as though I’m starting over, as though the slate of life gets clean. Maybe it’s the way the alders, now naked of leaves, ready their seeds for next spring. Or the way wild blueberry bushes—hidden during the summer months in the understory or bog—blaze fuschia with a new kind of life. Or how the ponds freeze flat and clean, an empty canvas on which we begin thinking about scrawling loops and incoherent letters with our skates. Fall is also a time to button up and put away. All of the summer businesses are finishing up their books, if they haven’t done so already. But mostly people are looking ahead.
The two-story log hotel on Homer’s main thoroughfare is undergoing major renovations to prepare for next summer. The construction crew has taken entire walls—inside and out—off the building. First the front, then the side, so you could see right into the lobby and hotel rooms as you drove by. It looked like a giant doll’s house waiting for a child to arrange the people and furniture.
In a few days, it will be Halloween, ushering in the succession of annual holidays and events: the health fair, where you can get a free flu shot and cheap blood testing and where kids can trade their Halloween candy for puzzles and toys. And then it will be Thanksgiving and the annual community production of the Nutcracker that goes along with a crafts fair in the high school gym. Then there’s the spaghetti feed in the basement of the Elk’s Lodge to benefit needy families, and then the main winter holidays—Christmas is the only one in evidence here—and New Year’s, followed by the parade through town to celebrate winter. The list goes on. We are just getting to the beginning of it all.
There are other beginnings around town as well. Owners of two parcels in the center of Homer are clearing their land for who knows what. One patch was a spruce forest until a few days ago. The other day, a machine—like a giant rototiller—ground through the topsoil to smooth everything out. I’ve heard rumors of a drive-through burger place and also of a Taco Bell. That makes me seethe. You can already get a burger at half a dozen spots within three-quarters of a mile, and we’ve already got two chain fast-food joints in Homer. Those are beginnings I could do without.
Some people are still trying to hold on to the end of the season. The float plane lake in the middle of town is icing up from the edges, but a single plane has remained at its dock as ice forms around it. The pilot of the spiffy, red four-seater puttered around the lake the other day, leaving a ring of broken ice. I wonder if the gulls that have taken over the open water at the center of the lake thought it strange too.
At this change in the season—on the verge of new beginnings—I’m concluding my column from Homer, Alaska. It has been a year of birds, blooms, celebrations, and deaths in this small town perched at the edge of the North Pacific. The tide will always wash in and out.
Come back in the coming weeks to read some of our favorite Northern Lights columns from the past year.
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