Saturday, August 4, 2012
A Cast of Characters
Boulder Bay is a wild, untouched place. It's far from anything remotely civilized, isolated by the sea and the mountains that circle it. The only footprints you'll find in the sand are those of animals. The only noises you'll hear are natural ones like the buzzing of fat, furry bumblebees, the roar of the ocean breakers, and the melodies of birds.
I can only wonder what the locals think when we motor in on our boat and camp at the mouth of a small, crystal-clear river. By now some of them must remember us. I remember them, at any rate, and with this, our third visit, the sight of familiar characters was like greeting old friends.
Even before we finished setting up camp, it became clear that the neighborhood had had some changes. Our campsite has a lean-to frame that we built to serve as a kitchen (with the addition of a tarp it becomes sheltered). The bald eagles use the frame as a perch, probably happy that these oddball people have left them this seat with front-row views of the river in a land where trees are scarce. We found numerous eagle feathers scattered in the kitchen. "My eagles," I thought happily, "are still here." Not only were the eagles still living near camp, they were busy raising an eaglet in a nest that was empty the year before. Thriving.
What were not thriving were the little Sitka deer. We found nothing but bones on the beach. Numerous skeletons, as if the whole herd had died in that place. The darling fawns of last year were now nothing more than smaller skeletons among the larger ones. It was a hard winter, with deep snows that pushed the herd from the hills to the beach where they eventually ran out of food to eat. I mourned the lot of them, those graceful, big-eyed creatures who meant no harm to anyone.
But life goes on, and the happy evidence of that was the newest neighbors to move in - a family of river otters. It was such a joy to watch the four of them roll and tumble on the sand in a knot of silky fur and sleek bodies. Such fun! They lived in a small creek behind our camp and I think we probably trespassed on their property. But they didn't hold a grudge, apparently, and soon accepted us warily - enough to bring their pups down to the sea to go to otter-fishing-school, anyway.
The biggest character on the block, the Kodiak brown bear, was still in residence too. We saw one bear on the beach and wisely turned back from a walk. Other than that one sighting, we saw nothing but footprints on an almost daily basis. There was a mother and cub who seemed to cross paths with us like ships in the night. They were there, but preferred to avoid us. The mother's prints told of a careful bear with long claws. The cub's small paw prints revealed a more playful nature. She took the shortcuts, wandered more, and just like a kid, walked through the mud while mother walked around it.
Even my own characters came along. Nathan, Carrie, and Carl flitted in and out of Boulder Bay like the small brown birds that fluttered around our camp. Without the bright white pages of my wip, the three of them had a holiday of their own. Nate thought about being a hunting guide. He'd buy a boat and live on it, he said. He'd call it the Compass Rose.
Eventually it was time to leave our beloved Boulder Bay. We bid farewell to the creatures who kept us entertained, who kept us company, and who reminded me that there are stories being written every day by characters more real than the ones in my head.