I’ve just returned from a week visiting family in a semi-arid section of Northern Idaho. It’s usually a place rich in sun, where the Snake River and its tributaries irrigate farms and provide a course home for salmon. The Snake ran high but it rained off and on during the visit. Meanwhile, Aki enjoyed a rare string of crisp, sunny days in Juneau. Now I’m back in the rain forest and it’s snowing.
In Idaho the rain cleansed the sky so that sunny mornings after a storm had a rich, Mediterranean light. In Juneau, the snow softens hard lines. The little dog and I check out a string of mountain meadows and find plants already surrendered to winter and others that still put up a fight. The leaves of most of the skunk cabbages lay limp and brown on the muskeg, providing a place for snow to drift. But, several of the plants have sent out spikes of new growth. Stranger are the ponds. Some remain ice-free while the lily pads in others lie trapped in new ice. An inch and a half of ice covers one pond. The muskeg is firm near the icy ponds and summer-soft around the others.
There are winners and losers on these meadows. Obvious losers include the trapped lily pads and few skunk cabbage plants that squandered the energy stored for next spring on doomed new growth. Those plants with leafless skeletons, like the mountain blueberries, have won.