Aki and I are at the end of the road, looking for low-bush cranberries. It’s a gray day, one that threatens rain. We walk along a narrow boardwalk between yellowing willows. Our steps flush a Stellar’s jay onto the trail. The top-knotted blue bird gives Aki a casual glance and flies away. The little dog trots down the trail like she never saw the jay.
We find cranberries in low numbers. Most are still unripe. We will have wait for the first frost to turn them. I stash my bucket to be picked up on the walk back to the car. We cross over a small stream where the wakes of unseen objects jangle reflections of the streamside foliage. Aki and I walk up and down the stream, trying without success to discern the things responsible for such pleasing disturbances. The day, which started as a search for the tangible, has turned into one for the solutions to submerged mysteries.
We work out way to the beach, listening to the calls of an eagle that we will never see. This frustrates me, as does the fact that the humpback whales that often feed off the beach don’t show themselves. As Aki gingerly works her way over beach cobbles, I almost step in a tide pool full of sea anemones with their translucent-green arms opened wide in welcome for their next victim. They are such lovely killing machines.
As a kid I was never dared to stick my finger in an anemone. When one of my braver friends did, the anemone collapsed around her finger. She was able to pull her digit out intact, smiling like she had performed a magic trick. But I don’t remember the anemones of my youth containing the shells and partially digested bodies of their victims like the ones in this Alaskan’ tide pool.