Water Striders and A Rope of Sound

ImageDeer hunting season starts tomorrow. What do I tell this deer now crossing the road? Do I warn him, wish him well, or say goodbye? I was running through these options when he gave me a quick over the shoulder look and jumped into the woods. Somebody’s dinner meat?

Today isn’t about the deer or hunting or even the amazing wildflowers in full bloom on this rain soaked mountain meadow. I’m here for the bugs and it’s Robert Armstrong’s fault. If he and Kathy Hocker and John Hudson hadn’t written an excellent book on the aquatic insects of Alaska, Aki and I wouldn’t be standing on the edge of this small pond looking for mosquito larva. Image

Armstrong promised that if we make a cautious approach we could see the larva hanging just below the water surface with only the tip of their breathing tube exposed to the air. He didn’t mention rain and I never considered how it might discourage mosquito larva. We don’t see any larva. There is a large water strider trying to make his way across the water surface to safe harbor in some pond side grass. 

The strider fights the wind and the concentric waves created by each rain drop hitting the pond. Sometimes these collide with each other to create confusion on the water surface. If the strider hit one of these pockets would the surface tension beneath his feet collapse to sink him to the bottom of pond? Now we have drama that distracts us from the rain until the strider disappears in an undercut running along one side of the pond.Image

After the pond I return to my cataloging of the songs made by the mountain water courses. It’s a good day for it with heavy constant rainfall charging the rivulets and streams.  I struggle to come up with new terms to replace those that have now become cliches. A small stream draining this field of magenta shooting stars makes a laughing sound moving along side the trail. Others gurgle or slosh or even roar when they pass through culverts under the trail. All the watercourses eventually join Fish Creek. 

The trail takes us to a small bridge crossing the creek, which blocks out the sound of wind and bird song with its violent symphony. The energy of the swollen stream draw me with an implied promise that by standing here long enough I can absorb its power and understand the things it had seen in its short passage from snow fields to here.  It’s a musical rope woven from all the songs of its tributaries. I try without success to tease out the strands of song and find the contributions of at least one song in my catalogue of watercourse sound. 

Aki, who didn’t want to join me on the bridge, cringes at my feet. Does she know she would never survive a dunking in the fast moving stream? More likely the stream noise hurts her ears. Either way she needs to move so we turn and start the climb through the rain soaked meadows to home.  Image

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