New Year’s Day, walk on the beach


We went for a walk on the beach

To see what the ocean could teach

Then the tracks of mink

Made us question and think

As the eagles in cedars would screech.

 

Synopsis: I’m a Family Practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa. In 2010 I danced back from the brink of burnout, and honoring a 1 year non-compete clause, traveled and worked in out-of-the-way places in Alaska, Nebraska, Iowa, and New Zealand. After three years working with a Community Health Center, I went back to adventures in temporary positions until they have an Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system I can get along with. Assignments in Nome, Alaska, rural Iowa, and suburban Pennsylvania stretched into fall 2015. Since last winter I’ve worked in Alaska and western Nebraska, and taken time to deal with my wife’s (benign) brain tumor. After a moose hunt in Canada, and a couple of assignments in western Iowa, I’m back in Alaska. Any identifiable patient information has been included with permission.

 

Being a couple of well-established party vegetables, we retired New Year’s Eve at 9:30, only to be awakened by fireworks at midnight. We could see most of them from the bedroom window.  Bethany opened the curtain, we put on our glasses and lay in bed, watching.   The display went on for a quarter-hour.  Bethany drifted off to sleep.

The sun rises late here, not till after 8:30. We went out for a walk on the beach with one of the pharmacists.   The island has diverse geology, and resistant rock outcroppings break up the strand.  Pacific flotsam dots the high-tide line; the most colorful parts I found were ropes, nets, and plastic containers.

We spotted an immature eagle soaring. We walked on the sand when we could, but mostly we slipped and slid over shingle, the pebbles and cobbles on their way to becoming sand.  We clambered over interesting layers of granite, layers turned vertical by unspeakable geologic forces.

People walk their dogs on the beach here, we expect to find canine and human tracks in the sand. But we also found a lot of lynx tracks, and we could read a dramatic story of a large cat stalking a very small deer, but the novel’s end got lost where the sand merged with the broken rock.

We heard the skittering, high-pitched call of an eagle in a towering cedar, but couldn’t spot him.

And we came across the distinctive, delicate marks that mink paws make in the sand. In one spot we found the shell of a sea anemone apparently retrieved from a tidal pool at low tide by a mink and consumed on the spot.

Then we found 3 drag trails, each paralleled on one side by mink tracks, each coming up from the jumble of stones and puddles of water and erratically but inevitably leading up the beach, past the high-tide line and into the rain forest and muskeg. We followed as best we could.  Though I track well for my age and demographics, I couldn’t follow the trail on the rock or on the spongy floor of the forest.  We wondered how many mink constituted the party, and what they had caught.

When we had gone as far as our aging knees, ankles, and backs would take us, we turned around. The wind died down, the sunshine warmed us and we unzipped our jackets.  Against an astounding blue sky we spotted eagle after eagle, gliding from the water into the trees.

 

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