An Encounter in the Fog
October 2, 1999
Everything in Alaska happens on a grand scale. This morning I rose to let the dogs out, and found that we are completely engulfed with a fog so dense and strangely warm that I cannot see the house across the pond! The air truly feels like a warm soft blanket settling lightly over everything. Bright yellow birch leaves swept from the branches carpet the ground. The scent of leaves and damp earth make a pungent aroma to the air accented with the smell of berries and fallen flowers. Good tracking weather if you are a dog…or a moose.
She came to drink and have a beauty bath. Out of the swirling mist stepped an elegant moose. She sank into the water to her middle and drank at her ease, munched a few water lilies and shook off the wet in a shower of sparkling droplets that looked like a jeweled cape fluttering from her shoulders. She swam gracefully right across the middle of the pond with a stream of eight ducks in her wake. They flowed in the current she made, and snapped at the little morsels stirred up from her passing. On the other bank, right near to our house, she emerged from the water and shook a great shower of pond into the surrounding area. She munched happily on willow at the side of the pond and had another drink. She moved up the bank a bit and marked her place with a great effusion of urine.
Not a half hour later, the dogs were whining and carrying on from the porch. I sent them inside (They thought they were going out!) and I watched from the railing. I could hear the grunt of the bull moose long before I saw him. He was very close to the house walking along the edge of the pond where the cow had entered the water. He followed the edge around, over the dock, and finally to the place where she had emerged. His rack stretched wide on each side of his head, nine prongs at least. I don’t know about hunting such creatures, but he is a trophy etched in my mind forever now. He found the place the cow had marked, and was clearly overcome with urgent lust. He pawed at the place and snuffled the air and disappeared following her scent.
I am sure they will meet somewhere in this fog, and there will be another pair of young moose in the Spring. From my vantage here on the porch, there is nothing else in the world but the small circumference of this space shared with such majestic creatures and all the smaller ones not evident this hour.
I often wonder whether any of the neighbors who have built here even know what passes under their windows. To me, it is a daily miracle that nature thrives and prevails over the chronic insults humanity afflicts on the Earth. Surely, harmony with the surroundings can happen. It is not so much a matter of enforced preservation of untouched wilderness as it is a heightened awareness of the beauty that surrounds this place without asking. The smallest square of ground can be a host for natural wonders. In neighborhoods with contiguous open areas, how much more exciting it is to have the space be wild and unbroken than carved into fenced manicured lawns.
I hope this neighborhood can stay a “Moose Meadow” of alder, birch, willow, cranberry and spruce with houses nestled into it as unobtrusively as possible. Then the animals will still live here among us, and we can be blessed to see them close from time to time.