I brought Aki to Treadwell for a sheltered walk among the old gold town ruins. The steady storm has already overwhelmed the bare-boned cottonwood canopy so we walk on mud, instead of the expected gravel trail. I look through thick walls of rain for a metaphor or simile that might be expanded into a poem. But none of the cast iron relics, made by true craftsmen over 100 years ago, stir my imagination. A boiler held together with thick bolts has no connection with my computerize life. An ore car rail emerging from the flesh of a spruce tree doesn’t drag me down a rabbit hole to find a mirror image in my life.
We leave the woods for the beach near the deep little bay formed when mine tunnels that ran under the channel collapsed. You would think that the worn pilings that once sported a shipping dock would make a good metaphor. I try some out out: rotten teeth, Hayden’s Wall, ghost army, the gates of Hell. All bad.
Then, while leaning against a worm-eaten piling, I spot an immature bald eagle that has secreted itself on the top of a piling 20 feet away. If it already had the white head and tail of adulthood, the bird would stand out like an ice cream cone. But today, soaked like the piling, by rain, it blends into the wood. The rain has darkened his brown feathers and turned his few white patches gray. The effect of rain on the eagle inspires me to give up my search for metaphor and try for a list of rain’s powers:
Bilbo is the first good thing that has come our way on this adventure. Before the big Chesapeake Bay retriever joined forces with Aki, it was all rain and emptiness along Eagle Beach. That’s a bit of an exaggeration. There were the crows, a small murder (manslaughter?) that croaked at us from safe perches along a narrow trail. We heard the nervous Canada geese that still fly almost of eyeshot along the river surface. I wonder if Bilbo makes them tense but the geese don’t react when he lumbers toward then and into the river, as if he needs to cool off on this 40-degree day, as if there is not enough rain to keep his skin pliable.
When they first met, the Chessie wiggled and galumphed around Aki. After he settled down they formed a dog gang—Aki the brains and Bilbo the muscle.
Every few minutes Bilbo wets himself in the river. Aki stays in the meadow always on alert for smells and animal movement to investigate. When they reunite, Aki appears to organize them into a recon patrol.
Just before we reach the woods, I hear a faint, “Bilbo.” Way down meadow a mom and her two kids call for their dog. Bilbo ignores the summons like he ignores the queen bumblebee that circles his thick skulled head. I pick up Aki to break the spell. Without the little poodle mix to distract him Bilbo hears his mistress and lumbers back to her. I drop Aki to the ground; half expecting her to follow her new homeboy, but never gives him another look.
A minute later we stumble on a local naturalist sitting in front of a blue berry bush covered in blossoms. Even though we interrupted his attempt to film a feeding bubble bee, he is gracious and tells me that only queen bumblebees survive the winter. All her royal subjects perish in the cold. These insects cannot be capable of emotion. No one with feeling could ever survive such generation genocide.