Aki is not here. Since she is a dog she must stay home. Dogs are not allowed to visit the arboretum that blossoms north of Juneau. I am not worried about her absence. She already had a nice little neighborhood walk this morning. At her age, she probably prefers an afternoon snooze on this sunny day to a wander around our town’s beautiful little garden.
We were lucky to find an empty space to use in the arboretum parking lot. Given that crowd of cars, I had expected the little garden to be jammed with drivers. But, it turned out we had no reason to worry. Most of the drivers were being guided around towers of flowering fox gloves by the main gardener. After soaking up sunshine and flowering plants, I walked down to the beach to watch rolling salmon glide in and out of the bay waters.
It’s the middle of summer in the southern rainforest. Things are settling down. On the Gastineau meadows, the colorful displays of fireweeds, chocolate lilies, and stalks have already died back. A scattered collection of white fireweed chunks stand scattered people waiting for a train.
I love the powerful spring beauty of early spring. But the lovely, if subtle nature of a scattering of fading flowers can help us make it through summer’ end.
It’s raining today. It’s raining soft and steady with little wind. It’s raining onto Sandy Beach, where the little dog and I walk. Normally, on this wet weekday morning, we’d have the place to ourselves. But today we share it with a colorful mother and her teenage kid. They wander across the open beach, heads down, picking up bits of 100 year old pottery just revealed by last night’s strong tide surge.
We walk through the rain, my pants getting more and more soaked as we walk down a narrow trail. Last week, the path seemed find. But we are turning the summer corner and heading toward fall. The tall grass, more taller than me, is closing in.
While my pants soak, Aki keeps dry as she slides between the tall grass. We move onto a cleared trail of gravel and head out to the Mendenhall River. I can hear birds sing or watch us as we watch then move by. But no ducks or even eagles show themselves. They are someplace else, slamming food from the rivers or ponds, leaving me to count the large collections of wildflowers heading toward seed.
We are walking along the Outer Point Beach. It seems like a dead place this morning. No eagles hang out on beach-side trees. No gulls bicker over scraps in the shallow beach. No whales breach off shore. It is just seems still, almost hopeless until we spot the great blue heron.
The long necked heron waddles along a rocky section of the beach, freezing to stare beneath of water before moving a few more inches down the beach. Then, it throws Aki and I a little glare, and turns back to her work. In seconds she snatches a small fish in her beak and takes a long time sliding it down her long neck.
Oooh Aki. You look like a sailor today. We are on a tiny beach, hidden from the rest of Juneau by screens of willow growth. Soon a small group of tourists will walk into our view. We can hear then chattering as they move closer. But now, the little dog and I have the place to ourselves. No one can block out views of the Mendenhall Glacier.
We are both sitting on the gravel beach. Aki leans again my knee and lets me gently rub her soft curls. Then, she moves slowly to the beach and walks into the lake until she stands chest deep in the water. As large chunks of cottonwood seed pods float in the air around Aki, she drinks from the lake. In seconds she turns back, he legs now soaked with lake water. I should probably start walking back to the car. But the little dog needs a few more minutes of petting before we can.
This time of summer, when the temperature rarely climbs above 60 Degrees F. the presence of sunshine means a lot. When Aki and I started our morning walk along Mendenhall Lake, clouds blocked sunshine. Even ten minutes or so, a shaft of sunshine would burn briefly through the clouds, lighting wild flowers with color. In seconds it would disappear, returning the lake to it’s usual flat-light colors.
Then, the sun forced away the clouds for good, making even the most plain little wildflowers look like gems.
It’s a good thing to do, walking for the first time in a couple of weeks, for me to walk along Gold Creek. It’s midsummer. Summer light hits here and there on the trail, bringing out right colors on the flowers it can reach.
Last night Aki joined us back when we came back from Montana. This morning, we found her sleeping under a bed. But she melting in a more normal state as we ate a pancake breakfast. She seemed the most happy when one of us held her. She’s getting to that age.
I’m back in Juneau, where Aki gave me a hard stare before going back to sleep. We will work things out soon. But tonight, I took advantage of some quiet time to measure changes that took place while I was gone. At least, that was my initial plan. I did a quick check of the yard, finding lettuce and spinach for our next dinner. Then I went inside to check out the photos of Montana I took during my trip to the family ranch.
We took several days to make it to the ranch, spending the weekend with cousins in Missoula and time on the Flathead and Blackfoot reservations. I ate rich food—too rich, forcing me to switch to garden lettuce and other greens.
By the time we reached Great Falls, I was just eating salads. We had good weather while visiting the ranch with lots of will visitors. A small gang of antelope watched us on the ranch road. But we saw no mosquitos, only a thick invasion of tiny grasshoppers.