Aki and I walked with pride up the steep mountain road on a hot, sunny day. The little dog should be proud of the way she kept pace with a well conditioned husky dog on his way to the mountain ridge. I was smug at being able to climb at speed without having to take deep breaths. I don’t know about Aki but my pride dissipated when we passed a half a dozen young women escorting a day class down the road. Almost all of the women pushed a child laden jogger cart. One lady, with a baby strapped to her chest, pushed twins in a cart. It aged me 5 years.
We were alone on the mountain after the day care class passed—-at least we didn’t run into any other people or dogs. There were robins and blue jays uninterested in yielding to the little dog. A marmot sang out warning to her children, not the shrill air raid siren whistle the oversized guinea pigs usually sound just before an eagle flies over the nest. This was a sweet song, a gentle warning that one might give well behaved children, more to impress the neighbors than to scare the off spring into action. I thought about approaching closer just to hear it again.
We pass muskeg ponds made opaque by fallen spruce pollen. They add a new color, a pale golden yellow, to the forest. Above one pond a cloud of pollen lifts from a stand of spruce and grows to partly obscure the trees. It pulses, as if its bellows blew the pollen from the cones. It’s beauty has a price—congestion and stinging eyes. On the way down the mountain we smell the resin of sun-heated spruce and the complex perfume of flowering skunk cabbage. The perfume smells nothing like cabbage or skunks, more like lilac but with a sharp, acidic twist.