Now, between winter snow and spring’s leafing, is the best time to walk through the Treadwell ruins. I can easily see Nature’s efforts to reclaim what was once the largest industrial site in Alaska. It gives me hope, this power of the rainforest to replace what man scrapped away to get at gold.
The metal relics, cast on the spot by craftsmen, retain a dignified beauty under their coats of rust and moss. A steel rail emerges from the soil, twists in the air, then disappears into the meat of a spruce tree. The carcass of a vintage car sinks below leaf mold and dirt, becoming more organic with the passage of each year. A mining car’s undercarriage rests near the edge of cliff above a pond that will eventually hasten it to dissolve. Inured to their industrial beauty, Aki only pauses to check for signs left by passing dogs. I am the only romantic in the family.
The crisp, hard beauty of winter melted away in last night’s rain. Summer’s soft, sweet smelling promise is far away. We live and walk in a gray purgatory without a taste of the richer seasons. Rain soaked driftwood logs lay scattered on the wetlands like corpses on a battlefield. One shows more life—lifting a slender limb up and over to frame the flooded Mendenhall River. “There,” it seems say, “That way summer comes with its salmon, seals, and whales.”
I can’t find a speck of green on the wetlands this morning except for the yellow-green paint on the channel navigational aids. The grass lays dead on mud and weathered drift logs. There are crows, black silhouettes that spread out like new owners of a run down amusement park.
This is a day to look up, not down, as the morning sun milks the white beauty out of surrounding mountains and glaciers. We hear a beautiful song and find it comes from a song sparrow—a plump little brown bird. Another sings the refrain from 10 feet away. Another brown bird—this time a Canada goose, lifts off the wetlands in a noisy flight.
The muted palette suits Aki and I this morning and I find many reasons to click the camera shutter. It may bore the one bald eagle we spot. He sits atop a screaming red navigation aid and calls to the sun for a spotlight, the ham.