Aki and left the house early today. We wanted to see Gastineau Meadows in the clarifying light that only lasts an hour after sunrise. Thinking, “you never know” I slipped my ice cleats into a jacket pocket. Now I am leaning against a bull pine trunk, attaching the cleats to my boots. Aki, who hasn’t slipped yet looks back at me with impatience. She starts back up the trail after hearing the crunch of my cleats on the dense snow cover.
In minutes we reach bare trail. The surrounding meadow is bare as well. I step off the gravel trail and find the meadow still firm from last night’s freeze. The sun has already burned away most of last night’s frost. I search for little depressions in the grass that still sparkle and find one dotted with wine-red cranberries. They ripened last fall and remained firm in spite of cycles of freeze and thaw. They are unaffected by the heavy snow that just last week covered them.
I pick a cranberry, find it firm but without the shinny surface it had just after ripening. It tastes complicated: mostly bitter, a little sweet with a musky base that reminds me of the meadow’s smell in fall time. I could fill my hand with cranberries and eat them during the meadow crossing but decide to leave them for berry eating birds and just awakening bears.