Joined by the the other permanent human resident in her her house, Aki and I confine ourselves to the cross country ski track set on a riverside campground. The little dog happily dashes between her humans, one moving faster on skate skis than me on old school gear.
Skiing on a set track, where you can reduce life to the kick-slide-kick Nordic rhythm, drives thoughts inward during these empty times in the riverine forest. That will change next month when the salmon smolt leave Windfall Lake to start up the big, brutal engine of life, priming it as prey for the fish and animals trying to eek out a living at winter’s end. The game fish, Cutthroat Trout and Dolly Varden Char follow the baby salmon to the river’s mouth, concentrating in such hungry numbers that it is illegal to fish for them there.
At ski’s end Aki and I walk to the edge of a small bluff and look over the river now swollen by a massive high tide. What normally is a landscape of sand bars decorated by drift wood logs and the occasional fish duck becomes almost indistinct from the sea it feeds. Only the root systems of the largest drift logs rise above its surface. On one a mature bald eagle perches on a root, facing seaward, looking miserable in the rain, as if resenting the feckless friends for whom he saves a place in the line of life.