Industrial Beauty

         Aki looks at me like she might at a dog ignoring a cooling chunk of king salmon. Have you lost your mind, man of mine? I’m squatting close to the meadow grass, trying to aim my camera so that it will capture a picture of the glacier but not the string of airport runway lights that slice across the bottom of the frame. I want to use some driftwood logs in the foreground to cover up the lights. 

I want to use some driftwood logs in the foreground to cover up the lights. 

I manage to depress the shutter button without falling on my face. But the resulting picture will end up in the deleted files folder. On a gravel bar on the other side of the Mendenhall River, a hundred Canada geese seem to be laughing at me. Standing up, I capture the best view of the scene—the one that includes the airport lights and the reflection of the glacier in the river. It’s a view remarkable for its beauty but also because it demonstrates how close our machines of commerce are to the river of ice.

To get to this wetlands trail, we had to drive past a lumberyard, welding shops, boat storage lots, and a warehouse. Jets flying to Anchorage or Seattle and floatplanes traveling to Angoon or Hoonah flew over our heads during the walk. So did an eagle. A seal broke the surface of the river while the beep-beep-beep sound of a truck backing up reached us from water treatment plant.

I head over to the river to where the salmon pens are anchored. The Mendenhall Towers and boats on blocks for the winter rise above the river.  Almost anywhere else in North America, the land under the boat storage lot would be packed with luxury houses that offered river and mountain views. Our city planners realized the value of providing fishing boats easy access to the sea. 

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