Nagoonberries and the Smell of Death

The smell of death dominates this forest walk. That’s how it is along this river at the end of the salmon spawn. Just there, through that patch of river side spruce trees lie the rotting bodies of dog salmon as well as the gulls, ravens and eagles that feast on them.  Aki goes on alert when we hear a splash following by a new chorus of gull complaints—- all signs of a bear working the river shallows for late arriving salmon. We stay to the forest today not wanting a repeat of last year where Aki chased a fishing black bear up a tree and then into the forest.

This morning the grey rain of late August gave way to sun, which now backlights tree moss and understory foliage. While green dominates the forest my eye is drawn to the rare patches of reds and yellows produced by dying leaves. Leaving the usual trail we turn to an area of the forest where the Nagoonberry grows. A legend in the berry picker’s world, the segments of this dark red fruit are said to exceed all other berries in flavor.  I’ve tried in past summers to taste one but someone always manages to hoover them all up before I can find a ripe one. Today I pick two and find them too tart and without must after taste. Even this Highbush Cranberry, yet to be brought to peak flavor by a heavy frost, tastes better.

While the forest opens up to reveal a mountain of true beauty I puzzle on the worth of the common blueberry and the rare Nagoon.  The Nagoonberry, like gold and diamonds, is made valuable by its relative scarcity and the willing belief of the consumer.  The blueberry just tastes good.

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