Ice Dragon


In her poem, “The Mendenhall Glacier” Ursula Le Guinn describes it as an ice dragon. Why didn’t I think about using that metaphor for the glacier? It’s seems so obvious this morning with fragments of clouds hanging above the ice like steam rising from a dragon’s nostrils. Le Guinn, who lives in Oregon, may have only seen the glacier once, and that as a cruise ship visitor. The little dog and I have seen it many times. Yet all I have been able to come up for a descriptor is “river of ice.” Well, she has published 50 books.



While I grumble to the little dog about metaphors, a bald eagle roosted in a nearby cottonwood tree lets go a ribbon of scat that arcs out of its rear and twists down to the ground like a dragon of poop. Aki looks at me like a dog tired of dragon metaphors. We push on toward Nugget Falls, now fully charged by recent storms.


Three mountain goats graze near the falls. Two, a female and kid, move very close to the water on a steep pitch of glaciated rock slick with mist. One slip would send them into the torrent. But they safely reach a patch of willows, which might be succulent with sap sent out during our false spring.


A woman with an 18-inch telephoto lens on her high-end camera appears behind me on the trail. When she points it at the two goats, the larger one stops to look at us. Its kid disappears into a hollow. I look down at Aki, tiny and quiet beside my right boot. She can’t be the reason for the goats’ defensive move. Between the goats and us the falls pounds into the lake. That fact alone should reassure the mother and child that we can’t harm them. Has the she goat learned to identify humans pointing rifle-like objects as threats?


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