Gulls and ducks squabbled in fog that obscured everything but the near sections of the beach. In such a world of almost total grey, displays of color from the tail end of autumn claim my attention. The sun formed a silver disk that I took to be a promise to power through the gloam. Across Favorite Channel, a snow covered sawtooth peak appeared for a minute.
“It makes me sad,” the tall man said. “So sad.” He stood in the glare from the sun about to break through fog so I couldn’t see details of his face, just the rolled watch cap from which a long ponytail emerged. A sea lion exhaled after surfacing, making it hard to hear him explain that for the first time in many years there weren’t clams for harvest. I was too inside myself to ask why. Something in the way he spoke—words used, pronunciation— suggested that he was of the Auk People who for many generations harvested clams on this point. Over my shoulder he could see their old village site. He could make out the areas once cleared for canoe haul outs just above a beach covered with dog tracks. As he left the silver disk of sun vanished, returning us to the grey. Promise broken.
Aki and I left the beach just after crossing in front of the old village site and took a trail through old growth. The returning fog silenced the ducks but we could still hear the song of a gull, sad enough to be the village’s lament.