I wonder if Thomas Wood worked out the words to his poem “November” while walking his dog on around this Lake? Aki, who lets all literary references slide off her like snowflakes off her little coat, ignores me. She moves down the trail with a puppy-like friskiness. This is, after all, her first snow of the year. Expecting the snow to turn to rain tomorrow. I am start to catalogue the reasons for why November is my least favorite month.
Using Hood’s poem as a checklist, I note the absence of sun and moon, dawn and noon. I am cold and see no butterflies, bees, fruits, flowers, feel no ease. Some saggy yellow leaves still hang from understory plants so we are slightly better off than Hood was when he wrote “November.” But I am still thinking no, no, no, no, November, when we cross a small stream and spot a pale flash of forget-me-not blue. It’s the Alaska’s state flower shivering in the November wind.
by Thomas Hood
No sun – no moon!
No morn – no noon –
No dawn – no dusk – no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member –
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! –
Aki, you’d think I’ve been too spoiled by natural beauty to be wowed by a borrow pit.The little dog gives me one of her “don’t stop gushing again” looks.
The poodle-mix and I are walking on top of a dike pushed up by men miring for gravel. The “U” shaped dike has captured a small pond by connecting to a length of gently sloping meadow. A beaver family has already colonized the pond. The big rodents’ earthworks killed a small copse of spruce trees on the opposite shore of the pond. It’s the reflection of these skeletons on the pond’s surface that’s gob smacked me.
Alder trees, gilded by backlighting morning light add to the show as does the dissipating globs of mist that hover just above the pond’s surface. When I walk without taking my eyes off the scene, I slip and fall where river otters have installed one of their “U” shaped slides. It’s pretty clear that nature and its wild children have claimed ownership of the old barrow pit. Tough skinned spruce roots snake over the top of the dike. Cow parsnip, fireweed, and the other aggressive forest plants color the dike with whites, yellows and reds.
Little dog, let’s hope that nature never loses the power to repair our messes.
Three young women walked towards us off the Basin Road trestle bridge, not together but spread out like they are trying not to draw artillery fire. Aki trots toward them, tail wagging, eyes intent. The first woman stares at me and I laugh and hope that she doesn’t notice.
I laughed, not because of her designer “cat eyes” glasses or bronze colored body suit. I laugh because she is the first person we have met that hasn’t responded to Aki’s goofy charm. We had just walked a loop up and down Perseverance Trail, passing many locals and cruise ship tourists. Every one, even the gruff guys and smart phone-toting teenagers at least smiled when we passed them.
Maybe the three young women had just fought and needed time to cool down. Perhaps they had been forced by family to take an Alaska cruise when they would rather have spent the summer at the beach. What ever brought on their grumpy mood is sure to prevent them from noticing local beauties, like the lilac covered daisies lining the old mining road trail.
Deep in the old growth forest the little dog and I find shy maidens stooping over the forest moss. To whom they direct their submissions? I’d ask Aki but she is already down the trail investigating the pee spot of a dog or wolf. So I sit alone with the maiden flowers even though they have turned their backs to me.
The sound of a boat wake slapping the beach reaches us in the trees. The maidens ignore it, like they must ignore the explosive exhales of humpback whales and the other happenings on Stephens’ Passage that they will never see.
Shortly after they flung out their waxy blossoms, the maidens must have memorized the moss patterns at their feet. They will never feel their pedals drying in the morning sun like the wild iris. They can’t produce sweet berries to feed the bear. What keeps them here in this gray place where they can never dance with the wind?
Aki turns back, giving me her “aren’t you coming” look. Her other human and a friend walk along side the little dog. Through my camera’s lens I see the trio moving between a grass-covered dune and a line of small surf slapping Boy Scout Beach. Beyond them lays a choppy Lynn Canal, Admiralty Island, and the white-capped peaks of the Chilkat Range. If Aki could fly, she’d be over Glacier Bay in a half-an-hour.
It’s too early for the wild flags (iris) to be in full bloom, but on the way to the beach we stumbled on two of them in flower. Magenta patches on the tidal meadow mark where the shooting stars thrive. Everywhere there are the blue or purple flowers of lupines and beach peas. If not for the cooling wind, we’d be in high summer.
I love the walk to this beach for the wild flowers and the frequent sightings of Canada geese it offers. Just before the beach, you can turn, look up the Eagle River, and spot a turquoise wedge of the Herbert Glacier dividing snowy peaks.
I hurry to join Aki and her humans just in time to watch a trio of crows force a raven to land near the surf line. The raven works on something with its beak as we approach and then flies over the water and back to where it must have found the treat. We push on to a spot with a little wind break where we eat a picnic and watch a trio of Canada geese fly by followed in minutes by an immature bald eagle.
Later we will see a score of geese fly low overhead in a formation that could be a from measure of sheet music from Ode to Joy. Probably not. If the sound made by the geese is any indication, the notes would be from the Three Stooges theme song.
Let’s get this out of the way. It’s raining. It’s raining for the first time in a week Drops cling to emerging leaves and blueberry blossoms. They soak into Aki’s grey fur. The rain doesn’t slow down the little rain forest dog. She muscles ahead over a low ridge and then leads me down to the beach.
I was hoping we would see whales or at least Steller sea lions after we leave the woods. But no cetaceans break the surface of Favorite Channel. We normally walk down the beach before returning to the trail. But someone is camping out in a tent. While taking a lesser-used trail to return to the forest, we are surprised by a pair of bickering, red-breasted sapsuckers. So intent on their territorial battle, they don’t notice us until we are only ten feet away.
When we return to the place the sapsuckers battled, we will have seen iridescent sea anemones jammed together in a tiny tide pool, several sea lions, and our first humpback whale of the year.
Aki and I start the Ides of March on the Douglas Island Bridge. Normally she drags her paws on to the bridge. But today she tries to bully me into letting her walk across it. A murder of loud-mouthed crows watches our battle of wills. I know I shouldn’t care what these dudes think about the little dog or me. But I am still bothered by the attention. Aki eventually backs down and we return to the car. It’s time to check out Peterson Creek.
At first glance the creek looks to be ice-free. Over a foot of golden brown water runs between the creek banks, reflecting the mottled bark of the creek side alders. But ice stills covers the creek bed, providing a white background for the golden water. It’s still a winter scene but spring can’t be far away.
We cross over the creek and walk down to a beach bordering Stephens Passage and climb a small rocky headland. Aki gives me her “This is so boring” look. I will accommodate her but first I want to study something that looks like an animal’s backbone trapped in rock. It could be fossil, evidence of life from a time long past.