January was feathered in furry courtship. Now, two days after a late Easter, the forest is bursting with life. We’re springing in snowshoes across a network of buried ice-clad alder at the base of the cliffs. It’s warm enough to get down to our sweaters, Levis and boots.
Micah chooses a gentle climbing route. Green and burgundy shoots poke up along with signs that most of these early plants are being munched on. We pass a tousled bolder and an exposed root system: icy, moist and musky, telling of a larger appetite.
Sunlight glints off a limbed nest in the crown of a hemlock, two hundred feet up the hillside where three eggs were hatched. Hatched, or are the broken shells from eggs that have been abandoned, a reluctant offering, a snack for an array of flying or tree climbing predators, those who work tirelessly to feed many tiny mouths? On bold legs, fuzzy babies will totter a small advance beyond the warmth of the covey to paw, and claw, learn to snap sharp teeth and snatch sustenance with stealth. We spot feathers, tufts of fur and bone.
This is Micah’s last spring at home. The first born of three is ready to explore a larger life than the magnificence that surrounds him. I recall our earliest time together. Late at night his vitality was so great his tiny body would vibrate with anticipation. A rugged lifestyle was essential for him to grow up well. Now he’s ready. And-- I’m still getting in shape.
Our steady progress up the hill brings us to an outcropping of rock, covered with crunching orange lichen. Dropping our packs and stripping away the sweaters, we pause for a snack.
“I like your backyard, Bochart.”
“Yea, this has been one hell of a place to grow up, Mom. The freedom and ongoing inspiration has made me ready to learn about other places. I’m thinking East Coast as a base for a few years while working, going to school and traveling. I have to see parts of Africa and South America, and I’ve become really interested in South East Asia.”
Below, the glacial valleys are drenched in sunlight. The entire universe is thawing today releasing the sweet smell of a freshened earth.
“My love, wherever you go you’ll bring life and a bright new perspective. Now, THAT’S a mom talking!”
Across the ravine, we spot a brown bear and her new cub at work finding twisted stalk and fireweed shoots. At the base of a fallen spruce the young mother digs shoulder deep to harvest an ant colony while the little one examines her toes.
She’s aware of our presence. We’re compatible.
(Personal history written as an exercise for the class, Klukwan Writing.)