Just minutes from the car, Aki and I are already soaked. Without interference from the wind, steady rain falls straight onto the glacial moraine. The Irish guide that once drove me around the Dingle Peninsula would call this a soft day, as if sunshine cuts like a knife. The description was accurate in one way: that day’s wet grayness softened away the visual contrasts that could have given the Irish farmland pop.
Today’s rains falls from clouds low enough to hide surrounding mountains and the glacier. Later we will see a slice of mountains and ice as the clouds lift. But, when we pass it on our way onto the moraine, the Mendenhall River appears to come out of a cloud. Raindrops bead up on blueberry and poplar leaves as well as in the border of segments of horsetail shoots. But the robins still sing, the kingfisher scolds, beavers tail slap lake water, and the little dog manages to enjoy herself.
The eagles play a waiting game on the Fish Creek Delta. They wait perched on spruce limbs where they could spot the arrival of food or a rival. They wait for the tide to recede. They long for the day king salmon enter the creek. The delta crows also wait for low tide and the salmon. But I can hear their young calling out for their mid-morning feed. The adults must long for the day their hatchlings fledge.
The impatient Aki rushes down a trail lined with blooming wild roses and cow parsnips. She has many scents to sample and cover with pee. The little dog doesn’t notice a formation of barn swallows dive on out matched mosquitoes. I feel like Aki and I are heavy bombers being escorted over enemy territory.
Perhaps because it landed so near a nest or because the crow is tired of the waiting game, it flies into an immature bald eagle to force it off it perch. The larger bird screeches out a warning but doesn’t move. In seconds the crow takes up station just above the eagle and lets out a string of sounds that could be curses. The eagle looks up at the diminutive crow, cocks its head, confused, rather than angry. Below, the swallows, their waiting game over, hunt prey.
Aki never enters the burn. She always waits with a worried expression for me to finish my search for recovery. Until today, I found little to report. Today, the flashy blue of lupine blossoms draw more attention than the skeletons of burn trees. Young poplar trees rise in a scattered pattern between ruined spruce. In a decade shade from the fast growing poplar will force the lupine to the sunny margin that lines the trail. In 100 years the spruce will have pushed out the poplar. But today, the lupine thrive in ancestor ashes.