Unhinged Alaska: Officially it’s spring, so now what?

After several weeks of intense sunshine showering the landscape with rays of cold so intense that the official arrival of spring felt more like stepping into a walk-in freezer wearing nothing but a chainmail thong, a metamorphosis has finally commenced.

 

At first, the indicators were hard to detect. A puff here and there of moister air consisting of snow no longer mirroring the consistency of granulated sugar or grains of stinging sand.

As the days convoyed into the past, the puffs grew into gusts billowing up the skirts of the spruce trees while twisting their crowns into contortions commonly associated with swaying to the earthen beat of an earthquake.

The hard ice glaze, that once carpeted the driveway, grudgingly changed its texture into something resembling breakaway glass that shatters upon the light trespass of our petite muttette.

For some unfathomable reason, she finds the circumstance to be highly amusing and now goes out of her way to pounce around on the substance like she is popping bubble wrap.

Our Denali-sized mutt Howard finds this behavior appalling because her antics suggest voluntary exercise and he gets winded watching other dogs run.

He’d better get used to it because extended walks are in his immediate future as warmer weather continues to tumble through the mountains passes and over the horizon earlier each morning.

As for now, I can only have patience as the snowline retreats from the beaches in a mad scramble for the sanctuary of the highest precipices that will grant it annual sanctuary.

In the meantime, there are more pressing items to address.

The melt cycle has resulted in a back-forty loch that, unless a sudden chill slows its roll, a flamingo on stilts couldn’t navigate it.

It’s no one’s fault but my own for neglecting to clean out a culvert when it became clogged with enough branches to make a beaver swoon. Results? The Ice jam cometh.

My solution? Flame thrower or a moderate explosive device.

Wife’s solution? No.

My buddy Turk’s suggestion? Use of his portable steam-cleaning rig.

Cost? Access to a deck chair, a growler of a local micro-brew and an unimpeded view of moi mucking around in the ditch culvert.

Wife? Accepted.

Me? Silently seeking waders.

I also needed to deal with rivulets of water wandering across the parking area pursuing shelter under dying drifts abandoned by the snow plow. It is there that slush ogres were gleefully diverting the miniscule streams toward the flower garden in an attempt to drown the dormant plants before they could stretch in search of clement air and touch a warm finger of the sun.

The aforementioned task held little challenge and was addressed quickly because of my engineering studies conducted between the ages of two and six. Those were the days that, when given a trowel and little wagon with at least three functioning wheels, I was capable of damming tributaries of the Columbia River.

This proclivity remains closely monitored by my bride who immediately looks askance when I motor out of our abode sporting mud boots, raingear, and heavy rubber gloves in search of a scoop empowered implement after the drainage ditches start to gurgle.

Isn’t it remarkable how quickly the environment has started to transform now that the maturing arms of daylight are extending across the peninsula?

Soon, a kaleidoscope of migrating fowl will pass through en route to the high arctic where they’ll perform their ancient ballets of courtship.

Nor will it be long before the heavens vibrate with the trumpeting calls of sandhill cranes as they surf the thermals over the bay while homesteading swans scrutinize their arrival and echo back a teasing query as to what took them so long.

Some final observations: A pheasant rooster issued its first seasonal challenge last Thursday morning confirming our theory that the species is trying to make a comeback.

Good luck with that, little stud. We haven’t spotted a hen anywhere near here in over a year. If he possessed opposable thumbs and an IQ higher than the mud ball he’s perched upon, I’d suggest he takes a shot on hooking up via the mating site at farmersonly.com.

Zena, a splendid cow moose that we have watched grow from a bumbling calf to the reliable mother of twins, each year for the last three, returned last night.

If the size of her low riding belly is any indication, she has either swallowed an industrial sized lawn tractor or will honor us with another matching set of calves that she will nurture within a copse of alders below the cabin.

We also await the appearance of a new brood of ermines from the haven of our timeworn wood pile, a massive pit stop of shorebirds along the coastline, and the first RVs bristling with more cameras than occupants.

It’s going to be a busy summer for them. As for us? It’s just another river of days flowing through our lives in Shangri-La.

Nick can be reached at ncvarney@gmail.com.

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