Life is most interesting when we appreciate its tome of contrasts.
Jane and I first set foot in Alaska in the small coastal town of Ketchikan. Walking past buildings old and new, we came to a creek on the outskirts of town. Fast and loud, it was tumbling over an infinite series of white water cascades. Crossing an old wooden bridge at Creek Street, we looked down on what the sign said was Ketchikan Creek.
On the other side we found a historic trail, with an interesting past. (But that’s for another story.)
We turned left and followed the dirt path upstream. The byway skirted under canopies of soaring evergreens as our progress meandered through a dark world of shadows. The soil felt spongy beneath our hiking boots. The air was cool and damp.
We were enjoying a lucky break in the weather, a pause from the constant rains.
Jane and I are desert dwellers, where we inhabit a land of warm, dry air amongst wide-open spaces. A world where the Earth lies naked to the sun. Alaska is clothed, always in dense forests. Fir, spruce, and other evergreen sentinels guard the mountains and endless coastline dressed in robes of green.
Beneath the trees, a bright green carpet covers the forest floor in a vast tangle of energetic life. The abundance comes with ferns, lime-green mosses, wildflowers, and a healthy variety of grasses running up to the very edge of the rushing creek.
Long days of summer had colonized each nook and cranny with fresh plant life.
A rich spectrum of flora held to the ground quietly, each stem seemingly content with its stationary existence. And then in contrast, the sound of the trailside creek broadcast its insatiable need to reach the sea. The creek’s dancing journey filled our ears with impatient songs of water on the move.
Each new note offered a steady and continuous narrative. Vestiges of windy storms were hidden within. Billowing rain clouds. Gentle fog. And the musical rustling held the tales of waterfalls. Each white cascade having lept from majestic mountain slopes fed by the melting of winter’s snow fields.
In Alaska, an artist can capture the engagement of stationary versus cascading. Summer growth versus melting winter snow. Delicate light versus robust darkness. Quiet hideaways versus a symphonic presence of water. Round-edged fields of melting snow versus the dark stone beneath. Stories unfolding each day between the fierce energy of soaring mountains up against the enormous, open sea.
Alaska is both powerful and delicate. Our senses reveled in the contrasts.