Montana Wolf

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Landlocked at Sea

It is gray here. It's been gray and rainy since I arrived with sporadic explosions of sun. I wonder if I'm cursed. Or may be some spirit thinks it's high time I balance out the 30-plus sunshine years that hit my flesh in the arid southwest.

The rain falls differently in every place. Looking outside the window in Juneau I could not tell it was raining until I opened the door. Opaque droplets fell straight down; it poured and the leaves on the trees didn't move. The sound was a light swoosh. The weather comes from behind me on this mountainside in Kaslo. The drops are heavier and land with a discernible splat. A breeze plays accompaniment on the wind chimes that hang in Carole's carport.

Carole and Chris departed this morn for Montreal via Denver to pick up Chris' son. They are on their way to get their landed immigrant status; the end of a long, exasperating, expensive process. Their license plates will change from Colorado to British Colombia. Their primary identity will now be BC as they join the ranks of ex-pats. I am in charge of the lambs that fatten on the pasture, the 3 turkeys, 2 cats, 1 dog and myriad chickens that produce a dozen fresh eggs a day. It's a hoot!

I plan to get a lot of work done these 5 days that they are gone. Marketing photos and writing queries. I am also deep into two phenomenal books. One about Sharon Matola's effort to save the scarlet macaws of Belize; the other an account of the renegade cutting of the golden Sitka Spruce on the Queen Charlotte Islands. I pay attention to what books come to me at different times. Whose words I am drawn to. I remember my first year in my cabin at Dancing Raven I read only the words of women. How I ended that year and dove directly into Falkner and Hemingway. Now these two books on the last remnants of the sacred wild capture my imagination.

As I was threading my way down Icy Strait amidst those sea otters on their backs John Vaillant's account awaited me. In 1730 millions flourished in the kelp beds from Baja to Alaska; one century later they were all but gone due to a rush for greed and domination. For while beaver, fox and ermine trade opened the west, it was the sea otter that stimulated the gold rush on the seas, with their unparalleled soft coat of 600,000 hairs per square inch. (Humans have 100,000.)

That creature that stole my heart, drifting on her back with a babe on her chest in the middle of the sea spends her life doing just that. Sea otters rarely go ashore. They eat, sleep, and 'hold hands' for hours floating on their backs. They store flat stones in skin flaps which they use to break open shell fish. They now exist only in the fog-laden north Pacific.

Once as "plentiful as blackberries," I remember how my eyes scanned and scanned the cold waves for a glance at their playful spirits as they stroked their dense coats with heat-retaining air bubbles.

I sit in landlocked Kaslo with books, photos and memories of my summer at sea. The word "extraction" takes the number one spot in the vocabulary of greed.

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