After soaking in the intensity of Oahu with its rainbow colored flowers made almost garish by strong sunlight, I hardly notice the moraine’s fall coat. For my first walk with Aki after returning to Juneau, I chose this trail, which crosses glacial moraine before looping through the troll woods. Happy to be on an adventure, Aki bursts down the trail, breaking to investigate an interesting smell here, an unexpected motion there. I’m as calm as this gray, windless day. As far as my little dog is concerned, I’m spending far too much time watching mountains and trees reflecting on dark pond waters.
We enter the beaver war battlefields, finding normally flooded places on the moraine dry enough for walking. Vigilantes have deconstructed several more beaver dams, opening up a path to a duck hunter blind. The recently dead body of a juvenile varied thrust lays on the trail. Aki freezes into a defensive position, wrapping tail between her rear legs just before we hear the oddly beautiful sound made by a 12 gauge shotgun fired over lake waters. The bird’s body seems intact, not torn by shotgun pellets. Bending down, I search unsuccessfully for clues of its death. I want to take it home and puzzle longer over its beauty–the way its spade shaped feathers, gray-white with orange accents, form a breast plate over its swollen chest.
We hear rather than see most of our rain forest birds. The blurred whistle of varied thrust is one my favorite bird songs. Using this rare opportunity to study the singer, I try to feel sadness at its death. It would be easier if I could find sorrow or at least a recognition of terror in its open eye. There is only peace, as if the young bird accepted that its time had come.