As a new Alaskan — only four years under my belt — this is perhaps the most depressing phrase I’ve heard in all the Alaskan learnings. We stare off to the horizon, look at those snow dusted mountaintops and say, “There’s termination dust on there.” And it’s never said with joy or excitement. It’s said with this deep, aching sadness.
Snow on the mountains means that hikes get harder (or impossible). It means that fishing gets colder (and only for the true die-hards). It means that tent camping is out of the question and the darkness becomes deafening. It means that the roads are going to get harder to drive and that if you don’t have auto-start on your car, you better prepare yourself for cold mornings or allow yourself time to pre-heart your vehicle.
If I’m honest, this time of year is the hardest for me mentally and emotionally. The impending darkness and the “termination dust” feels like everything I love is being “terminated” and I’m being grounded for the winter. It feels like I’m being shackled to my house with all of the fun summer frolicking being taken away from me.
According to the all-knowing internet, the actual phrase “termination dust” comes from pre-statehood when the construction workers knew that their work was coming to an end. They’d look forward to it, knowing that the break was imminent and their bodies could take some time to rest and recharge, after a full summer of work.
While I’ll still be a little salty every time that snow sticks on the mountains and people start mentioning that dreaded phrase, I’m going to try to transition into the mindset that these early construction workers had.
What work of the last few months is it time to put down?
What do I need to do (or not do) to rest and recharge in this dark and cold season?
As you transition your gear to the winter hobbies, making room in your garage for the skis and snowshoes to come out of hiding, perhaps lighting more candles and turning that heat up a bit more, I hope you can find some comfort in the rest that this termination dust can bring us. I hope that whatever it is you are laying down for the winter, you will be able to breathe more deeply in this crisp, cool air.
The Rev. Meredith Harber ministers at Christ Lutheran Church at 128 N. Soldotna Ave., Soldotna. Worship is at 10 a.m. on Sundays in person with COVID-precautions or via Facebook Live, and 7 p.m. via Facebook Live.