First Light


The sun rising over Gastineau Channel this morning makes Juneau look like a tropical paradise by flooding the tidal flow with orange light. Aki and I know the truth. Its early January in Alaska and the temperature is yet to rise above 12 degrees F. We head north out the road to visit a large meadow where wolves hunt, beavers sleep through the day, and otters play.


My skis barely crack the crusty snow that covers the meadow. Aki just trots on top of it. The snow won’t be a challenge for the little dog. She dashes about, checking the pee mail. I break through a screen of willows to reach the beaver’s home stream and then follow the tracks of a single wolf to their door. Aki sniffs tracks made by the beavers last night and heads further up stream.


Several nights of clear, calm, and cold weather have allowed frost feathers to build on the meadow’s alders, pines, and spruce trees. The feathers on a nearby stand of trees flash from inanimate gray to flashing prisms when struck for the first time by the early morning sun. I pull off my mittens and make many attempts to capture the richness and sparkle until my hands numb. If I my hands are cold, what about Aki’s unprotected feet. But the little dog seems fine. She doesn’t even lift a paw off the snow while she waits from me to return to the skiing.



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