Dreams of Fireweed and Chamomile

Yesterday, it stormed so hard that school was closed. To put this into perspective, our school is never closed. One of the teachers told me throughout her past eight years she has been at Shishmaref School, there has only been one day closed for weather.

The wind is coming from the south, which means it’s warm. It’s bringing wet snow. The gusts strain to knock me over on my short commute to school.

No planes bring people in to town or take people away. No mail leaves or comes in. Everything stays still until the storm passes.

I remember snow days when I was in first and second grade. (This was in the state of New York) I remember excitedly listening to the radio and cheering when we didn’t have to go to school. It was bonus time. I don’t remember having to make up days to make sure we had the required number of school days. I was too young to notice.  Maybe we did.

In Shishmaref, we make up the days. If we close school, then we make it up on the following Saturday. That sort of takes away the enchantment of snow days.

This kind of storm is dreary. It’s no fun to go out and walk. It’s no fun to look at the world through the veil of soggy falling snow.

So, I look at my photos of the beautiful fireweed from last summer. And I dream of the fireweed and chamomile I will harvest in the Kenai this coming summer. Maybe a cup of hot cocoa and a movie will help distract me from the soggy storm.


Alaska’s state flower is the forget-me-not. My choice for the state flower is fireweed. This magenta beauty thrives in open areas. Up close, it stands tall and proud. From a distance, it colors entire mountainsides. Magnificent.

I had never seen fireweed until our first venture into Alaska. When I look through my past photos, my love for this flower is obvious. I have shots of it alone, mixtures of fireweed blended with other wildflowers, and meadows and mountainsides blanketed by this beauty. There is something appealing about a flower that thrives in the aftermath of a possible disaster and is the beginning of new growth for a burned out area. It’s the picture of hope.

Since my introduction to the flower, I have learned this plant also has culinary benefits. Last summer, I tasted it in a natural plant stir fry. I also have tasted fireweed tea. The dried tea in a jar was beautiful, too. Next summer I plan to harvest some to work with in the winter and try it out for myself.