An original reason for giving the naturalist position a try was that, getting closer to retirement, I wanted to keep active in nature interpretation while stepping away a bit from my formal teaching role. Kodiak was a logical choice because of the short season here--that would give me time to finish out the school year down in Michigan. The combination of responsibilities was attractive to me, too: that prospect of working at the Park showing tidepools and wildflowers through one part of the day and instructing in military history through the other part. The opportunity to write this column was also a strong consideration in my orientation towards Kodiak.
I'd first intended to spend a summer at Fort Abercrombie State Historical Park, and then head somewhere else the next summer. But...I have to admit that the place just stayed too interesting to me. The short season/long day adaptations that living organisms of the island have are biologically fascinating. The combination of a marine environment with a boreal rainforest here is a pairing of environments not commonly met with. The historical puzzles keep it interesting, as well: Will we ever find images of our guns? How soon will the next veteran who was actually here walk up to me on an otherwise uneventful afternoon?
I'll admit that a part of why I come back is my living situation on the shores of Monashka Bay. I started thinking about that last week, when a visitor from Washington asked, "You mean you don't see any lights at ALL across the bay?" And I could give the quick answer, "None!" while at the same time realizing I'd been taking the complete darkness for granted, forgetting this really special situation in which I had found myself.
The conversation started me thinking of some of the memorable things I'd experienced over the last four years on that Enchanted Bay. I came up with a list that far exceeds to space limitations of this column. Several contenders for top items:
Unbelievable sunsets, and sometimes two of them, as the sun skids along ridgeline.
Killer whales coming in like a motorcycle gang, tearing through the salmon by the shoreline, and disappearing.
Three eagles forming a perfect equilateral triangle in the sky for minutes, holding their places against the wind.
Humpback whales, and Monashka's cliff acoustics making it possible to hear both their exhaling and inhaling.
Last year's B-17 making a low-level roaring pass down the bay.
And (from only a couple of weeks ago) the planet Venus blazing bright enough to shine through the twilight, hanging over the mountains and winking out as it sets behind the sharp ridges.
The Kodiak community kept me here, too. Besides making good friends here, I've found Kodiak to be a source of talent and willingness. Setting up our Saturday evening presentations through the summer has been a breeze. Every season it's been simple to put our program together just by making a few phone calls at the beginning of summer. The folks at the Park itself have been great, and I've found they cover so many more dimensions of activity than I'd been aware of. Those can range from forest conservation to making sure that Park improvements conform to stipulations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
This will be my last column for the season, and my model of moving off somewhere else still just doesn't seem adequate. There's so much more here at Kodiak. I wish you all a good winter, and I hope to see you next summer.