By Barbara Njaa, Nikiski
It’s spring again on the Cook Inlet.
Every year finds us more aware of the seasonal rhythms
Snow dying and black currant buds plump, waiting to open,
Seagulls returning — their raucous cries punctuate the soft sounds of waves.
The ice berm pocked and rotted — uneven mounds of sand mark those already gone.
Morning comes early, the flush of peach and rose brighten the northeastern sky.
Wondrous light after long winter’s night.
Always there is something new,
That has percolated through our consciousness and pooled into action.
This spring we are gathering birch sap.
We hurry home and walk out to our lovely ‘cow with roots’,
Checking the pail gently attached to her papery trunk.
At first we would find one small drop
Then a warm day brought surging sap
And our small-scale collecting began.
We thought about syrup but that seemed work
So we drink iced sap with a squeeze of lemon…
New to us, old as Alaska, refreshing.
Breakup is nothing like it used to be.
Now puddles on soft gravel, not tire-swallowing mud.
No more brisk mornings walking through the chill,
Crunching over frozen layers into watery depths.
Easy to see before leaves of devil’s club and wild celery
Wall the roadside with jungle green.
Listening to a woodpecker, wondering when the early swans will come —
Warming — meeting a moose chewing branches in no hurry to leave.
Reaching the car and starting it,
Realizing I needed an extra thirty minutes,
That I am running late.
Nothing is growing yet,
Though signs of growth color birch twigs and currant buds.
Snow lies on slopes and under tawny grasses.
Rushing meltwater makes its way into Inlet waters.
Change is lovely and pampering novel —
The walk can wait ’til the workday’s end…