Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

Today the weather finally calmed down after what seemed like a week of constant storming. Yesterday they actually closed the schools at noon, a first since I've been out here, due to the continued blizzard conditions.

On the dog walk after work yesterday I geared up and headed over to Little South America to give Chico a good run off the leash as we had been just walking him in the neighborhood for a few days. I drove in as far as the road was cleared and parked by Crown Alaska. Chico and I were drawn to a narrow corridor between stacks of totes on the right and stacked containers on the left, ending in a small warehouse. About halfway down the alleyway I noticed movement on the ground through the blowing snow - a bald eagle, sheltering from the storm. Before I could react the eagle launched towards me, heading out the way I had come in but unable to gain altitude due to snow and ice buildup on its wings. I put a gloved hand in from of my face to ward off what I thought was an attack but quickly saw was an escape attempt of a very frightened eagle that felt cornered. I saw the fear in its eyes as it swept inches over my head, landing clumsily on a small shed just outside the alley. I gave him as much space as possible as I exited the alley to avoid frightening him into trying to fly again, wasting precious energy reserves.

Chico and I walked up the unplowed road, 50 feet of ledge on the right and Captain's Bay on the left. I noticed small song birds flittering along the rock face, attemping to feed in the storm. Small birds cannot just hunker down for a week and weather out a storm - their rapid metabolism requires them to eat enormous quantities of food to maintain their body temperature. They can roost overnight, but they have to eat or die, no matter what the conditions. How can they live through a week-long blizard? The answer of course is that some can't . . . I had never considered the impact of our winter storms on the wildlife out here, I had always ventured out into the weather as a tourist, safe in my gear and retuning to a warm car and house. As I plodded through the storm, trying to keep Chico in sight with the 100 feet of visability, I sucked in snow with each breath and sometimes felt like I was drowning, like the air had turned liquid. I watched the tiny birds and then a raven, impossibly soaring along the rock face, contorting it's wings into fantastic shapes to maintain straight flight through the swirling unpredictable air currents. . . . .

I love to watch storms from the safety and warmth of the couch but I'm beginning to love the up close version even more . . . . I remember reading an interview of a longtime Unalaska resident who had retired and moved outside, to the lower 48. When asked what he missed the most about Unalaska he replied "the wind" . . . .

3 comments:

Kym said...

Friends always tell me I live in an adventure but your stories top mine. I love the eagle story.

Mom said...

As always, well written. I could feel and see it. A+

Kimberlee said...

What a terrific description! I've experienced similar weather here, minus the eagle (unfortunately). I can REALLY relate to your last paragraph about the former resident that said he misses the wind. I think wind is one of those things that you either love or hate but, once you love it, it's hard to live without.

Great blog!