My Dad Would Have Loved the Whales

The morning sun is a pleasant surprise as are the killer whales making expanding circles on the calm channel waters as they break the surface. From here they look like feeding trout on a pond. One breaches, throwing its body up to crash on its back into the sea. It is a glorious thing to see. The rest of the pod, a dozen or so, fed on homeward bound salmon.

Excitement of seeing them makes me useless with the camera. After a few efforts I turn it off and listen to their rhythm — the crash of surfacing, air forced through to clear their breathing tubes, the crash of retreating under water. In truth Orcas lack the graceful form of larger whales but seeing the early morning light catch a male’s glistening dorsal fin, well that is more than enough.

The whales push on and so do we to a creek side trail out the road. The creek would be called a river in a land less blessed with waterways. It one of the streams we have not clouded with glacier silt. On this sunny day, the light drives right to the creek bed, defining each pebble. Later in the summer sunlight will reveal the dark bodies of spawning salmon. Eagles will hang like vultures in the creek side spruce and we will constantly be on the lookout for bears. Today the water is as empty as the alder branches are bare. We walk alone along it to the sea.

After a mile or so we break out of old growth onto a great grass meadow where wild iris and chocolate lilies are already forming flower buds. Great white mountains rise above it at all compass points.  Aki runs mindless over this field of still dormant grass as I search for the first Shooting Stars. When the meadow reaches summer mode those flowers will form magenta islands on a sea of green grass.

My father loved the Shooting Star from the time he first found one near his Montana home.  He was dead before I found my first one in Alaska. He would love to see Shooting Stars blooming here in June, like he would have loved his granddaughter and the light sparkling on this creek water. I wish he could have started this day with me, Aki and the whales.


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