Today, one of the last cruise ships of the season docked in Juneau. Busloads of its passengers have flooded the moraine in front of the Mendenhall Glacier. Drawn by the promise of unexpected, decent weather, Aki and I drive out to join them. Most of the tourists head toward Nugget Falls or Photo Point. The little dog and I divert onto the flat ground recently abandoned by nesting arctic terns. Here I can see that the yellowing willow and cottonwood leaves that at a distance look like candle flames are tired, dying things. Still far away, the glacier looks blue-white and pure. I know that up close you can see the silt that will eventually cloud the waters of Mendenhall Lake darken the uneven ice.
Unburden by local knowledge, the tourists return from Nugget Falls laughing and talking about the big ice river and overpowering waterfall. I look closer at the patterns of yellow and brown on the trailside willow leaves, find a subtle beauty that none of the tourists stop to photograph. The flash of stars that they saw from a distance has blinded them to it.