Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Sharing the Wealth

Today, the rain is thick. One or two degrees would return the stuff to snow. I woke up to six fresh inches as a flock of Canada geese circled above hoping to find a route up through the pass. They've yet to drop off the first of the hummingbirds who hitch a ride the middle of each April. I'm here to greet the hummers though this year I'd rather accompany the geese farther north.

A geographical fix is in order. I heard Christy Tengs of the Bamboo Room talking about getting out of Haines for a mini-vacation. She planned to have a weekend in Skagway, 16 water miles away and I got excited.

Instead of Skagway, I drove forty miles to town and another eight out the peninsula to cozy up with Yarona Blue, my two year old grand-daughter. She and her mom and dad just finished crafting their fine little house on the bluff where I found them toasty and dry, watching the snow come down. They were busy shaping miniature wooden airplanes, painted in vibrant primary colors, carefully detailed. The planes will hang in a mobile when Sarah and Chorus's new arrival arrives. Yarona was happy for two hours on my lap with her own paints and paper. My geographical fix, realized.

On writing. I remember Dad, towards the end of his career, compared it to torture. I've succeeded avoided putting word to page for several seasons now as I entertain the notion this avoidance has to do with waiting for the other shoe to drop. Its a bizarre feeling, one of suspended animation. As if somehow, by not writing, I'm outside the wave of events of the last few years.

The only constant is that life changes. Some go on to say writing can be a vehicle for getting unstuck so change can gain momentum.

So, last spring a starving wolf took out Mason, our devoted and ancient canine of sixteen years.  His absence made room for a string of hungry black bears to turn the barn into a fast food joint. All of the four-legged barn crits dispersed to became part of the landscape, some in the bellies of others.

I miss them and its been sobering to recognize how much of my identity had become the crazy granny goat herd of 39 mile. I'm now left to explore the fine lines between domestic and feral, the fence rows where wild things thrive and little kids discover color.

In the last hour we lost those two degrees. Heavy white is now sticking to the forest across the river. Those geese gave up finding an opening through the pass. As they circle above I'm reminded I need to get another chunk on the fire and to be sure and have white sugar on hand for the feeders. Time to pull on both shoes.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Sweet Heart of Summer

If its never too late to start early and time is relative then I'm right in the groove.

These months have been nothing short of large, filled with a thousand-thousand fits and starts. A late spring in May and the gang-buster heat of June brings out the flying creatures, the buzzing and biting hordes, great billowing drifts of fluff and green, green, green in every direction. Its the bio-storm of Alaska in summer, (a perfect term, attributed to J.B.)  I've just got to be out in it. Can't not.

After decades of practical-use experiments 'in the field', my drug of choice to remain calm amidst the hordes is a light lacquer of deet selectively applied to the wee remaining exposed surfaces, wrists and backs of hands, (if its too blooming hot to wear wooly cuffs and gloves beneath two Ivy League button downs), and gingerly wiped onto temples and forehead, (I may never attain wisdom, damn!) Its nasty but it works.

I'm now prepared to travel twice daily with the 39 mile crew. We lop, gather and munch our way through the celtic knot of wild, across the high benched eskers  down into nettle covered kames left behind long ago when the glaciers receded.

Red-capped chickadees fledged this week challenging the collected knowledge of the white and orange Richard brothers. Rick and Dick are the boys from Dezadeash. As yearling kitty's they would very much like to expand their hunting skills beyond the small rodent population who abandoned the little house. I like to think the short fuzzy folk moved in with the squirrel. The one who bored his way down through the upstairs wall before R&D arrived. Don't see much of either rodent family these bright days of summer, though we regularly cross paths in the forest.

Those able baby birds noisily follow our procession. They use the dense forest canopy of alder, osier, elderberry and Devil's Club to their advantage, pee-upping along our winding route above the Klehini. We feel like a mini northern jungle populated by a precarious ratio of well fed predators to hungry prey. The river flats and forest supply all the animals of the wilderness the goats and sheep and I feed the dogs and cats.  Its the Ho Chi Minh trail of the Tongass, tended twice daily, complete with the sounds of a helicopter hovering above the mountain just a heartbeat away, though gratefully free from the war torn terror of that architectural marvel .

This summer its twelve hour shift changes up there on the peak. The exploration crew is working hard and furious. At night, as mosquitoes cling from the window screen, I can watch from my bed the glimmering tower as it drills, probing, exploring the mysteries deep within Mother mountain.

Its then I think of the story re-told in Klukwan two springs ago by elder Sally Burattin.

Its the Tlingit legend of the cannibal who chased the people, the cannibal who turns out was human greed pushing the people to consume all, in all directions, taking more than needed forcing them to be wasteful.

The force kept driving them on. Across an arid landscape of grass turning to steppe then tundra. Across rocky peaks that slashed up from vast ice fields. The people fled, chased down into the mountain's crevasses, down into darkness, a giant glacial tube, a cobalt corridor of rushing water, boulders and silt.

They followed the water, often on their bellies crawling, to eventually emerge from an ice cave into a lush river valley. The group, finally able to stop, found the cannibal was no longer among them. One of the young women needed rest and nourishment and the time to deliver a newborn, the first born. To honor the opportunity to begin again and to remember the difficult passage the people called the river the Klehini,  'Mother waters'.

The waters originate high in the Chilkat Pass and are a main tributary of the Chilkat River, home to all five species of Pacific salmon and the largest annual congregation of American Bald Eagles in the world. The Tlingit village of Klukwan, or 'the storage container for salmon', continues to thrive in the heart of the Chilkat.

I'm the watcher on the trail above the Klehini, the crazy granny goat herd beneath Mother Mt. I'm always hoping our human capacity for greed doesn't out distance the heart of this amazing valley. It's never too late to remember and, well, its all relative.