Fresh snow on Mount Alice, after another evening of rain here in Seward, a sign of the changing seasons. Rust colored leaves collect at my feet as I explore the woods I call home. Mushrooms in all shapes and sizes sprout out of the moss, clinging to fallen trees, at home in decay.
This time of year delivers a surge of melancholy upon the cool ocean winds, a longing to hold onto every shade of green, to ward off the mustard brown that arrives with fall. I want to cling to the sun, keep the great ball of fire close to earth so it can light up the sky for hours on end.
Soon we will be driving to school in the dark, unable to scan Resurrection Bay for otters, seals, and sea lions. Waking beneath the stars-- if the clouds part long enough to reveal the distant lights.
Snow will make its decent, and I will adjust to the season of little daylight, reluctantly, at first, as I gather hats and gloves and down jackets from storage, seeing what still fits my children's growing limbs, rediscovering the raw beauty of winter, until I almost forget what Alaska feels like in the heat of June.
I will look out at the grey world and be unable to imagine Lupine's particular purple, the blue of a Himalayan poppy will seem unreal, like a painting from another time, not mere months earlier, when wildflowers covered the tundra instead of frozen water turned white.
"There's snow on the mountains," I said to the kids this morning, as we slowly navigated the potholes on the gravel road that snakes between the bay and the cliffs from Lowell Point to town.
"Yay snow!" Olive cheered from her back seat. Skiing, sledding, forts, angels...
My girl, who yesterday, as we walked back up from the pond at the base of Tonsina Trail, after checking out the damage recent rains did to the gravel work of summer's State Park crew, the way the creek jumped the constructed rock barricade and reclaimed the path for it's own bed, washing away the small stones, pushing larger rocks downhill, proving, yet again, that wilderness will prevail, that the natural intelligence of the environment will replace man's sharp angles with curves, said: "I love the rain. It's so fun."
And on up the hill she skipped, singing Hobo Jim's "Iditarod Trail" song.
Away up in Alaska
The state that stands alone
There’s a dog race run from Anchorage into Nome
And it’s a grueling race with a lightning pace
Where chilly winds do wail.
Beneath the northern lights, across snow and ice
It’s called the Iditarod Trail.
Oh sweet Olive--I love the rain, yay snow--at six she's not old enough to cling to past seasons, just riding her way through the changes, excited about what's next.
Elias, sitting in the front passenger seat, now that he's twelve, said: "Not snow! I'm not ready for snow. Mom, are you not ready for snow?"
"Not yet, Bud, not yet."
But snow it will-- well, at least winter will come-- and once I adjust to the shorter days and colder nights, I will want the yard to turn white over the alternative of freezing rain and ice.
I too will think: skiing, sledding, forts, angels...
I will pull on my Bogg Boots and walk these same woods, looking for paw prints, signs of the animals who share this home on the side of a mountain.
Last weekend, I startled a black bear on my run to Tonsina Point with Lola. The bear saw my dog, and splashed into the creek, running towards the beach. I saw the large bear from an angle, as it galloped away, and instead of fear, felt awe. I continued jogging in the same direction the bear ran, adrenaline giving my body the energy it lacked earlier, silently thanking the bear for the rare sighting.
"I haven't seen a bear here all summer," a kayak guide said, when I told him about the encounter, his clients hoping for a glimpse of the mighty bruin, an animal beyond the control of human design, a sign of a world beyond machines, text messages, and pumpkin spice lattes.
But I saw it.
And the river otters that swam towards, not away, from my dogs, both curious and ready to defend their tidal pool against the canine intruders.
And the immature eagle who unfolded his wings, longer than my arm span, as the dogs and I approached his perch on an old dead tree that overlooked the bay-- and off he flew, giving me the gift of the sound of an eagle soaring.
All these sightings remind me how much I can never know. Where that particular black bear slept on Saturday night... What the eagle sees upon his flight...
A whole world of knowledge untouched by mine.
I just moved from the city of Anchorage, where I spent the last 16 years-- almost as long as I lived in my hometown of Watertown Connecticut, before heading off to college in Maine-- leaving behind the comfort of a convenient community to live on the edge of wilderness, so I can understand more deeply what it means live within this world. Not separate from but with the bear scat and eagle feathers, to walk the same shore as the river otters and learn from their brave approach.
I hope to make this mountainside my permanent home, the place where my wandering soul finally rests--on the edge of two parks and yet only a few miles from the small harbor town of Seward, where I can still text friends to meet for coffee and drive my automobile through the grid-lined streets.
Near the train station in town, a white Viola blooms through a crack in the pavement; a beacon of the balance between adapting to a changing world and digging roots through the barren ground to the rich soil beneath the broken surface.
The seasons change, and yet, here I stay.