Project 52 #16: Finding Spring

One of the main things I’ve noticed about spring in southeastern Alaska, is that it is slow in comparison to what I’m familiar with. In Minnesota, we have a long, cold, drawn out winter, generally followed by a fast and furious spring, barely a month or two between the season of snow-on-the-ground to the heat of summer. It always felt like the world was exploding when spring came, and if you blinked, you’d miss it. Here, it feels different.

Spring is a full season here, not just a brief commercial between winter and summer. It’s much more contemplative and thoughtful. The daffodils poke up gently, then slowly rise. The pussy willows blossom gray, then linger for weeks before turning green. The temperatures rise very gradually, almost imperceptibly. You have TIME to take pictures of things here. I appreciate that feature.

Another thing to get used to is the effect of the ocean and mountains on the season. I drive a few miles across the mountains to the western side of the island to find that the flowers and foliage there are a good week ahead of ours on the east side. The violets along a mountain trail are barely poking up, while the violets along Gravelly Creek are wide open and blooming, and it’s all a matter of elevation!

While some signs of spring are the same here, like pussy willows or the return of the robins, there are some delightful new ones to enjoy, too. We walked a trail on the western side of the island this week, and got to see a few of them up close.

Salmonberries blossom early, and they are a delightful shade of pink!

Herring eggs wash up on shore, tiny jewels amidst bits of seaweed. Zach dared me to eat one, and so I popped a clump in my mouth and then he said, “No, stop, don’t do it!” Haha! Guess he didn’t think I would actually go for it. Harvesting herring eggs is a tradition started long ago by the natives here, and they are considered a wonderful seasonal delicacy. He just didn’t know if it was okay to eat ones washed up on the shore or not.

The skunk cabbage blossoms are a startlingly showy yellow flower, that remind of me of giant calla lilies. They are the bright splashes of spring yellow to the boggy ditches here that the marsh marigolds are in Minnesota. They do, indeed, have a fragrance reminiscent of skunks, but thankfully fainter. My two-year-old son was mostly fascinated by the fact that there are little bugs inside the flowers.

And finally, we have the devil’s club just beginning to bud. This is one of those crazy fascinating plants like stinging nettle that you can handle only with gloves (check out those thorns, which they say are nearly impossible to pull out of your skin and must be left to work their way out on their own), but apparently boasts amazing healing properties. I bought some locally-made devil’s club salve to try, so we shall see if the claims are true!

What I’ve been reading this week: The book of Judges, which is one endless cycle of the children of Israel falling away from the Lord, receiving the consequences for their sin, then repenting, followed by God mercifully sending someone to rescue them from their affliction. There are some great, inspiring stories, and also some really sobering ones—all great commentary on the sinful predictability of humankind, and a God who is both just and merciful.

“…may all Your enemies perish, O LORD! But may those who love You shine like the sun at its brightest.” (Judges 5:31)

P.S. If you’re new here and wondering what “Project 52” is all about, you can go here to read more!

At the Edge of the Ocean

The ocean is a whole new world for our family. It’s beautiful and mysterious, vast and wild, incredibly fascinating and a little terrifying. It actually boggles my mind to think about the depth and breadth of it, and the unknown quantities of hidden creatures it contains. I have taken the kayak out on a couple sheltered bays, but I think it will be a while before we’re brave enough to venture out into the big water on our own. The unpredictability of the wind and the waves and the hazards of fluctuating tides, rocks and shoals are daunting to say the least.

One thing we have wholeheartedly embraced, though, is the adventure of beach combing. It feels like a safe way to experience the ocean. We get to feel the spray, smell the saltwater, even get our feet wet—but without much risk. Because of the tide fluctuation the shoreline is a moody, ever changing, wonderfully unpredictable landscape and you never know what you will find. Every time we go, there is something new to discover.

An abalone shell.

A sea urchin.

Purple starfish.

A nudibranch.

Sea anemone waving their arms in shallow tidal pools.

Far out, an orca blowing.

Crabs scuttling along rocky bottoms.

A mink, fishing for his seafood breakfast.

We have seen and learned so many new things in the last few months, and I know we’ve barely scratched the surface of what there is to discover!

“O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.

Here is the sea, great and wide, which teems with creatures innumerable, living things both small and great.” (Psalm 104:24-25)