Islands protect this crescent-shaped bay. It’s the perfect spot to house people who make their living on the sea. Once it did. The Auk people lived here before the offer of mining jobs ten miles away in Juneau seduced them to move into town. The bay’s graduated gravel beach would still offer easy access to the sea for the Auk people’ big cedar canoes. Now thimbleberry thickets cover ground where they stored their canoes in winter. They left behind a totem pole. But, the happy cries of their children have been replaced by robin songs and thrush trills.
Aki and I are the only ones here to listen to the birds. The beach is empty of people, dogs, and even sea birds. Only the fins of Dahl porpoise mar the bay’s flat-calm surface. In winter harlequin ducks and scoters will fish the bay close to the shore. Gulls will bicker on the beach. But they have no need of shelter today. They are out chasing feed or in the gulls’ case, haunting salmon streams.
Today the ban on king salmon fishing ends. Men around Juneau will troll for what salmon that haven’t already entered their spawning streams. The commercial guys will haul their catches to a processing plant two bays south of here. A white cloud of sea gulls will form over each boat as it unloads kings. In Southeast Alaska, where we still rely on nature directly or indirectly to feed our families, such scenes at a fish plant are metaphors for joy.