Friday, May 25, 2007

March & April at the Beach

With the addition of a honda to our lifestyle, we have been able to go out to the beach regularly and experience all the changes that it experiences over the spring thaw. The above picture is in early March, when everything was still frozen. We drove out to Nuvok, "The Point" where the beach extends into where Hooper Bay meets the Bering Sea. We saw icebergs frozen in place, and seal hunters out on the edges of the ice. Here Esther, Roy, and Odin Jade (dog) go exploring on the ice, with seal hunters' sleds and snowmobiles in the distance.

Into April, the ice & snow began to thaw, and while it was still chilly, a lot of times still below freezing, there were some wonderfully warm afternoons that melted a whole bunch of winter away. One of the first outings we took to the newly-sandy beach was to sight-in my new .22 rifle (yes, I'm now a gun-owner) I'm going to use for purely subsistence reasons. Here I am learning to sight it in, and then here is another picture of Roy shooting the rifle with his high-school age brother James Jr. looking on:

Pretty soon, we were having cookouts and campfire evenings at the beach. The beach is so amazing because it is never the same any two days you visit it. Sometimes there is nothing washed up except pebbles and seaweed, and other times it's covered with starfish, sometimes a million jellyfish, and then there are the cool finds, such as big bones or carcasses. When the migrating birds started to arrive, the beach was (and is, still) a great place to bird-watch. We have seen lots of ducks and geese, all manner of gulls, some arctic terns, plovers & pipers & snipes, and once we even saw an owl. In fact the owl flew in towards Esther and I while she was playing in the sand and I was building a fire, and it flew in towards us from the water, almost like it was birthed from the waves. It flew towards us and checked us out, hovering over us for a few seconds, and I felt very pierced by its gaze. Then it flew off, so gracefully and powerfully. It wasn't a snowy owl, but a smaller cousin, with a white bowl face, kind of like a barn owl. I'm not sure of the english name for the owl, because people I've asked about it have only known the Yup'ik name, which (forgive my spelling!) is Anipaqsuaq.

We had a great Saturday evening at the beach in April with our friends Marta, Katie & Moses, when we had a campfire cookout, flew my kite in the wind, and saw a rotting walrus carcass. The ice had receded a lot by this time and with the sun on the ocean, it just looked like paradise (what it is to me, that's for sure). Check out all these pictures from that afternoon/evening:

Esther is creating a sculpture of starfish in the sand...

Here's the finished product -- she's very proud.

So proud she'll wear them! :)

Here is the grody walrus carcass. We poked around at it for a while, trying to find out if it still had tusks, but, no luck. :) Stinky!

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