MOTHER'S DAY USUALLY signals the “official” beginning of springtime in Alaska. With summer tentatively peeking from below the horizon, our family, like so many others, uses this weekend to engage in an outdoor happy dance of grateful celebration, clearing our brains of winter’s fog so we, a giddy collection of children and grownups, can see the simple reminders of what makes this place we live so beautiful.
Our Mother’s Day outings began in 2008, the day after Oldest AK Kid departed Alaska for Utah and management of Asperger Syndrome that had crippled our entire family. Wandering around the quiet house, restless and confused, AK Dad suggested a drive after watching me make endless circles through the living room. With no particular destination in mind, Dad steered the family truckster south along the Seward Highway in relative silence, bypassing the usual family fun spots, finally choosing a left turn toward Portage Valley.
I remember the sun was rather tentative that day, slipping in and out from behind thin, grayish clouds that mirrored perfectly my feelings of uncertainty. AK Kid, a preschooler at the time, woke from his drivetime nap and said “I wanta get out!”
Sighing, I looked at AK Dad who nodded and pulled over near the Trail of Blue Ice, a serene, 5-mile pathway from the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center at Portage Glacier to Moose Flats. Now a finished, multi-use trail complete with arched bridges, interpretive signs, and excellent access from both Black Bear and Williwaw campgrounds, the Trail of Blue Ice saved me that day.
Gravel crunched under our shoes as we walked, birds twittered and sang from the brushy willows that frame this lovely trail, and the spicy scent of springtime reminded me why people often refer to the earth as “Mother”. Under blue skies and the frozen gaze of Williwaw Glacier, we explored dirt and bugs, watched a lazy duck slip down a stream, and listened to the happy shouts of other families enjoying early-season fun at nearby Black Bear.
All was not right in our world, but it somehow seemed better among the mossy mountain hemlocks and gnarled cottonwood trees that signaled stability even as our personal bubble of existence seemed oh, so tenuous.
Mothers do that, you know. Quietly signaling their presence even when we’re not fully capable of such awareness, they stand as guardians to our broken hearts and addled minds, knowing that this too, shall pass. True nurturing through nature arrives not by constant talking and evaluating and planning, but through silent support and consistency of character that I as a parent often forget until standing myself in the comfort of Mother Earth’s arms, surrounded by trees swaying gently at her quiet breath, my own children gathered close.
Nature takes care of other mothers.
For more information about the Portage Valley and Trail of Blue Ice, visit the Chugach Ranger District website.