Author Archives: Dan Branch

100 Year Old Pottery

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.  

Nice and Quiet

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.

A Little Break

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.

Comfortable Day

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.

Finally, A Sunny Breakthrough

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.

Back Home

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.

Leaving Home

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.

Never Again

In 1942, every Japanese American person on Bainbridge Island was forced onto buses and shipped to detention centers.  They weren’t criminals, just good farmers or shop workers with Japanese blood. Without evidence of their sins, they were ripped away from the State of Washington and hauled to jail.

            This morning, I walked with a group of people of mix race along the path used in ’42 to deliver Japanese Americans onto boats to haul them away, We stopped to read little stories of the people being shipped to a prison camp. Later some of those prisoners would latter serve in an U.S. Army battalion to drive away the Nazis from Italy and France. Others would spend World War II locked up in a detention camp. Today, the inheritors of those jailed in WWII Japanese detention camps have built memorials, like this one on Bainbridge Island, to remind us to never do it again.

Leaving Montana

            I am inside the Bozeman airport, waiting for a flight back to Alaska. The government threatened a suffering of hot weather today but it felt more like a spring afternoon when I walked to the terminal.  

Everyone inside the terminal is wearing a face mask. Everywhere else I’ve visited in the state no one has worn one. In Montana’s big tourist draw towns like Missoula, charged up tourists jammed the streets with their rental cars. None wore masks. Most of the wheat farming country I visited was quiet. We’d drive on a highways for a mile or two before seeing a car. None would pass our family wheat ranch for hours at a time. They were as mask-less as the deer and antelope that we passed near the ranch.

Montana Bench Land

            I am missing Aki. But she hates to travel on airplanes. I needed half-a-day of that to get to Montana.

            Aki would have loved hanging out with our family cousins in Missoula but probably would have interfered with my long conversations with them. But then again, little scraps of food did tumble off picnic plates without me noticing. Aki would have been more than happy to nibble it up after it hit the carpet.

            Now my sister and I are visiting our grandfather’s homestead wheat ranch. The locals tell us this year’s crop needs more rain. Dark clouds in the sky could take care of that problem if the wind wasn’t moving them toward the mountains.

            We spotted bison and deer a couple of days ago when passing through Flathead Indian land. Here, in the ranch’s bench top country we spot antelope. A small clutch of six of the tan and white critters is grazing on a fallow wheat field. They move slowly off when I get out of the car for a better view.