Home & Away series

This morning an ermine, white-bellied little hunter, inspected me from the porch as I drank my coffee. And then later today, orcas, also white-bellied, rose under the skiff and we all stopped breathing for a second as more black fins knifed up around us. Three orcas were spy hopping, just bobbing there, eyes and noses above the water. You witness such things once if you’re lucky. I think I didn’t understand this during my first season at the fishsite—a summer of record salmon returns, jumpers raining silver and humpbacks breaching in tandem down the bay. I thought I’d see these things again. That our livelihood depends on salmon returning to this bay each year is terrifying, really, in the face of climate change and the loss of expected patterns of species. Maybe it’s better to think of everyone as visitors. Because that’s all that any of us are, I suppose, here for a while and gone. In August, we watched the fin of a salmon shark slice through the water beside our skiff. We saw a mountain goat right on the beach which I swear then bounded sideways straight up the hillside, his head bouncing above the grass like some shaggy white pogo stick. In the nearby village of Larsen Bay, people still drive up to the dusty, fireweed-lined airstrip daily, to meet the planes and see who’s coming and going. I’d say Kodiak sees more goodbyes than most small towns, between the Coast Guard and seasonal jobs. The beloved teacher, the favorite hairdresser, friend after dear friend. Your kids’ friends too. You can get a bit wary. After my entire junior high cafeteria table transferred, seventh grade was pretty lonesome. I’m guilty of seeing all these goodbyes as loss when instead, I could think of it as the luck of being visited by so many good people. Each year before he leaves the site, Pete strings an electric fence through driftwood posts around the cabin to keep the bears out while we’re gone. All summer, small birds rest on the driftwood, unfurling their songs, departing.