Aki and I are on a jail break. My weeklong illness kept us off the trails until this morning. She bounces around the car cabin, fuzzy tail a metronome, little pink tongue curling around her chin, emitting annoying yips of excitement. These emotional shows grow as we approach the Peninsula trailhead.
Here we find still yellow maple leaves trying to get on with fall—a task made almost impossible by the recent hard cold snap when braver skaters transited new ice on protected sloughs. I also find a single white eagle’s feather enmeshed in the forest duff. In this dark place the feather, almost 1/3 fluffy down, shines like a ferry light. If Aki were a child we’d cobble together a history of this feather with shared imagination and local knowledge of the big birds.
Tumbling down a trail defined more by tree roots and topography than man’s spades we reach the beach, today a very gray place except for the Mendenhall Glacier ice giving off a dim blue white light. We turn down river toward a beach usually rich with birds. Aki trots ahead with confidence until the first shot gun blast sounds from across the river. Down goes her tail and head, which she turns to me to show a look of controlled fear.
She recovers after a few soft words and walks along, this time slightly behind me, toward our goal. Two deeper blasts from a goose gun ring over the water to drive Aki into the tall beach grass until flushed into the forest by a third gun discharge.
Hoping the hunters are done for the day I walk further down the beach to where the beach side cliffs give way enough to permit a view of the rich beach. Aki stays with me like she did when I was bed bound. Head low, tail wrapped protectively around her privates she walks carefully by me side. “Okay little dog,” we can turn back.
Just before leaving the beach we fine a line of transparent jelly fish bodies spread out on the tide crushed beach grass. Most make circular corpses but one forms a three pointed shield melding into the straw colored grass beneath. In the night a single blade pierced the jelly fish then wrapped itself around the ghostly body in a parody of love.