Clouds of Crows Not Snow


I hoped to see snowflakes melting into the sea; was willing to suffer the clinging weight of wet dungarees; was surprised to find Outer Point a dry, gray place. We left behind a squall at Chicken Ridge, fat flakes forming blankets over parked cars, trimming bare limbs of our apple tree. Here away from the storm catching mountains backing Juneau, rocks revealed by the retreating tide slowly dry in the wind.

L1190405Scanning for whales or even ducks, I find an empty channel. With the exception of a nervous cloud of chickadees we see nothing on the crescent shaped beach that forms the approach to False Outer Point.  Around the point a bald eagle scans the same water but flies off when we approach his observation point.  Later I see him streak low over the water targeting something hidden behind a toothy rock formation.

A stony arm thrown seaward then abandoned by nature, False Outer Point must be seen at ebbing tide low enough to open a level path around the line of steep cliffs that form the point’s headlands.  Composed of hard and soft layers of rock twisted 180 degrees by geological forces, the point is most interesting where most exposed to the sea. Wave action breaks awayL1190455 to nothing the soft then sculpts the hard into aggressive teeth.  Around the corner, small dunes of mussel shells collect at the high water mark.  Rounded stones animated by the tide carve impressions into softer rock.

Down beach we find only a lone black crow to share the beauty. He flies away after spotting us. There is a raven in the woods making almost conversational sounds to himself. Great mimics, our ravens copy the sounds of dripping water, cats, and even electrical transformers. This one appears to be practicing lines for the part of Raven in the Tlingit creation story, “The Box of Daylight.” (Here is a link for a video telling of the story:  He reminds me of the time my daughter, when at Sunday School, told her teachers and four year old classmates the Box of Daylight story when asked who created the world.

Leaving raven to rehearse, we move down to a portion of beach offering a good view of Shaman Island from which a cloud of black birds erupts — northwest crows. At first they move toward us but then turn to drop out of our sight behind Outer Point. Instead of the expected wall of snowy white we receive briefly this black specked sky.


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