Friday, March 18, 2011


I wake early, wide awake, and with calm air outside the house. I grab my gear and make a fast portage to the south lagoon, setting in just as the sun begins to leave the horizon behind, rising up into layered clouds that filter warm tones in swirls and broad bands.

I have forgotten how magnificent the marsh is at dawn. Blackbirds are trilling, geese honking and ducks are just coming out of their night beds. It is as if the entire planet is waking up, as if a dormant garden burst forth all of its blooms at an instant. It is the beginning of the world.

In the east marsh, it seems that the floating cattail island has rearranged itself. I can't quite say for sure, but it appears farther north and the opening of the sometimes calved off south island is wider. It just looks different...maybe it is the dawn.

As I reach the main bay I spot a flock of 69 common mergansers, 52 males and 17 females. I have seen them flock together, but usually just before they migrate off later in the spring...maybe it is the dawn.

I get out in the NE lagoon to walk the new trail out to the road where I can get a closer look at the north eagle nest. As I walk the soft ground, a silent hummingbird stops me in my tracks for a moment before allowing me to continue. It's a wonderful trail. The eagle nest is smaller (and closer) than I ever thought.

When I return I am reminded of what some of the trail restoration volunteers said about this place (Yesler Swamp, to them), that it is a patch of nature hidden down below the road level, out of sight from the hustle, a surprise for anyone that cares to walk down and take a look. I remember how the volunteers that I took out in my canoe were so happy to see their project from the water and I realize that I have never seen their project from the land. It's very good...and it is not the dawn.

As I return, I find a sheen of oil in the NE lagoon. It smells like home heating oil, something I've run across here before after heavy rainstorms. I find a larger and heavier, but odorless sheen in the west islands south of the mouth of Ravenna Creek.