Column: Sometimes In a Great Fog

    Harold Axel Stolpe up the Stikine River on a hunt in the early 1950's.

    Sometimes great things can come out of the fog.

      A recent Saturday saw deer and duck hunters out with seasons underway, local high ‘scholars’ on some fundraising quest, and adults searching for their favorite spots to commune with nature. Egan Drive and Glacier Highway were all taillights and right hand turn signals from 5:00 AM on.

      The fog makes you concentrate, yet wraps you in complacency.

      I nearly missed my back loop turn-off, barely making out the car bumpers of numerous dog-walkers, trekkers, and runners heading off to train. I try to find a comfort zone among the newness of a trail enveloped in grey, my reference point being the banter of those I meet. Fog makes conversations soft and easy and I hang on every word like a small child excited by concealed wisdom in bedtime stories.

      A deer hunter ambles down a brush hill clad in a bright red jacket, “perfect for deer hunting as other hunters can see you and deer can’t.” A duck hunter moves along the mud flats in bright orange oilskins, “bad color for ducks because they spot you real quick.” Yet it is the ‘duckie’ with a mallard string on his back and the other with just his gun. It is all about “just being out in the wilderness, walking through the fog” both hunters would comment.

      A young soldier on leave, crystallized breathe punctuating each sentence, tells me of his first tour of duty in Iraq as a heavy equipment operator, of tours elsewhere, and of going back. “There are fogs there,” he said. “Fogs of sand and heat and time.”

      A friend punctuates the glacial air with news of his father’s passing. I had visited his elder, whom Alzheimer’s had left traveling worlds of cloudy paths, on a day when the forgotten came gushing out in love and wisdom: histories, facts, dates, stories, recollections, jokes, sons and grandsons, logging with his brother, and hunting wild animals in the morning haze; on a day when in hickory shirt, wide brimmed hat and vest, he pointed out areas where fill and rock had been brought in to build legacy; a day when wind-blown rain chilled against his hearing aid and our hands shook a pact for a visit not repeated.

      Sometimes life is like the fog, things just jump out at you or you just drive by things and don’t realize it until they are gone.

      Talking with my friend’s father reminded me of how much I didn’t talk with my own, how our lives passed like two boats in the Wrangell Narrows fog until his travels in life were done and my paths sought dockage in his memory.

      Yet not talking sometimes speaks loudly of love… I remember a time when my boots were two sizes too large and not Xtratufs, when holding my father’s hand was bigger than where we walked. Resting on the tail-gate of an International truck or old tree stump he would lift me up and teach me to blow a doe-call with a blade of grass on some ancient logging road in the earliest mist of AM’s, not caring if a buck came out into a clearing. Sitting in the lap of that towering pioneer of a Swede, wrapped in fabrics they don’t make any more, things a grandma would bring from Sweden, my eight-year-old eyes wide with the wilderness, my tiny heart full with the rhythm of his breath, I drifted off into a foggy sleep.

    Above - Harold Axel Stolpe holds Klas Axel while brother James Dean grins in this 1959 photo.

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