A Summer Place in Winter

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The sign warns swimmers that they enter the water at their own risk, there being no lifeguard. Only one, and that a labrador retriever, ignores the warning; splashing to chest deep water, finding nothing for his efforts but an unobstructed view of Gasteneau Channel, something easily obtained by standing at the water’s edge. Aki ignores the now soaked bird dog to crisscross Sandy Beach, passing back and forth over the high water line demarking a snaking edge of snow covered sand.   Together we explore a summer place in winter.

P1100237 2Formed by pulverized mine tailings rather then true sand, the beach is salted with mine relics—electrical insulators, weather softened bricks, stumps of wooden pilings. Down beach a windowed concrete

air shaft rises above the channel water— an Alaskan version of a Martello Tower, hard edged, partially covered with rotting tin roofing, surrounded by aging pilings. With no dry place to live or even descend, it offers no hope of hearing a stately plump person mutter church latin. We do hear the pleasing disharmony of complaints from two mature bald eagles guarding opposite ends of the tower’s roof. Their song mixes with small wave noise as a shower of heavy snow flakes partially obscures the horizon.

P1100253Passing beyond the tower we reach the small but deep cove formed by the collapse of the old Mexican Mine. Aki winds around more rotting pilings and over snow covered beach rocks to the cove, barking at ghosts the whole way. There are always ghosts haunting summer places in winter, here where a mine collapse forced the abandonment of a vibrant mining community, we have ghosts all year round.

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