Uh oh... now what?
There's a hole in the sky.
At first I just thought the afternoon sun was peeking through the clouds asI got to the point on the climb where I was at bluff's edge again. It hadbeen dark and shadow free down in the kettle. The shadows returned in thelast fifty yards of the climb. I paused at the switchback, first glancingout at the water of Admiralty Strait, and then I looked back and up. Thethought was there again. There is a hole in the sky. Okay, it isn't a holein the sky I corrected myself. It is a hole in the green canopy I rununder each day. The hole in the canopy reveals a kaleidoscope of greys,white, and a streak of blue with wind curled patterns. But, the firstthought I had was that there is a hole in the sky.
The next switchback is only about a hundred feet up the trail. There wereseveral ruby crowned kinglets playing in the salal. They are part of thevagrants of winter, never fully disappearing in their southerly migrationas a few are always seen each week. Their bright red crowns and acrobaticflitting here and there caused me to pause. I would have paused anyway. Ihad just seen the reason for the hole in the sky. One of the big trees hasfallen. Three feet thick is my guess. It was broken by the wind about tenfeet above the ground. I had just ran this way on Wednesday. Yesterday'swind that had started as just a whisper at sunset and then turned to a roarlate in the evening had won an age old battle. The trees at bluff's edgelean into those winds, twisting branches to grasp at each gust, hoping tostay upright. How loud would that splitting cracking crashing surrenderhave been? In over twenty-five years of running on trails I have only gotto hear the falling death song twice; twice that I knew what I was hearing.There was a third time; the first time. It took two days of running andpausing and looking to figure out what I had heard, but at the end I couldgo back to that point on Raider Creek and look down toward Shepherd's Crookand follow the whispering and cracking to the ground.
This fallen giant--though not a true giant, not like some of its six or eight-footdiameter elders just a hundred yards away--had broken and fallen away fromthe trail taking half a dozen smaller trees with it. It was a Sitka spruce.
Other times I would count the rings as I cut the trail blockerinto pieces I could roll off the trail. That would not happen here. Thejagged ends of the stump were ten feet up. The upper part of the tree hadfallen away from the trail and was buried deep into the salal, Oregongrape, and wild rose thickets. In the years after I am buried the fallenlog will become a nurse log. Eventually some winter will pass when someother generation of ruby crowned kinglets will play here, but they will bein the shade of trees already as thick as a man's waist tho' only fortyyears old and reaching upward to fill up the hole in the sky that gave themthe sun when they were born.
John, I never tire of your imagery. Thanks for sharing your observations.