Filling the Air with Down

Once or twice a year I bring a fishing pole along when Aki and I visit the Troll Woods. It’s best done in the fall, when trout and char follow silver salmon  up one of the moraine streams. But given the pour returns of the other types of salmon to their spawning waters, I don’t think we can count on the silvers showing up next month. 

            The little dog and I take different approaches fishing. It’s serious business for Aki. She stands by my side as I cast, watching the lure or fly hit the water. For me the fishing pole becomes something to distract the practical part of my brain so my imagination can escape. After a few fruitful casts, Aki gives a little moan, which cancels my imagination’s leave of absence.

            We move from place to place, stopping at breaks in the shoreside woods to fling out line. Once this morning, I felt a light tug. Another effort hooked a 10-inch cutthroat trout, beautiful in it crimson and gold blush.  It would make a tasty lunch but it is 4 inches short of a keeper. Aki does not act pleased when I let it slip off the hook.

            We stop at the hatchery on the way home to check out the scrap-hunting eagles that can be found there every low tide, sulking about the low salmon returns. Today, an immature eagle with a clump of down still stuck to the top of its beak puffs out its feathers and gives them a hard shake. The air fills with down.

I think of Tlingit dancers, who fill headdresses made with sea lion whiskers with eagle down. Body stiff with dignity, elbows extending their button-blanket cloaks to mimic eagle wings, they dance towards the audience and bow until the air is full of down. 

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