“But this isn’t a real beach” my niece said to me, “because a real beach has sand, right ?”. There isn’t much sand on the beaches around here, mostly there's rocks in varying degrees of fineness, or boulders. The fine little rocks stuck to my niece for days afterwards even as she announced to her Grandpa over the phone that she had gone swimming in the Bering Sea. And this is the very same girl who shrieked her terror about the warm ocean waters off Mexico and swore she would never ever go swimming in the ocean. There she was paddling about next to DOG in water temperatures not that far above freezing. Now who was she calling a pickle? (Pickle being her very favorite thing to call everybody at the moment as in ‘Aunt Wayfarer’s being a pickle’.)
I’m doing my best to corrupt my niece into really looking at and exploring the world around her and I must say she follows my lead admirably. We spent hours near the docks watching the boat hands clean salmon & halibut. We looked at birds and listened to the cry of the murres (sea birds) nesting on the cliffs and the roar of sea lions on a bachelor haul out. We watched a sea otter groom itself and she asked me to repeat why sea otters have such fine fur (because they don’t have blubber like all those other marine mammals and it’s the only thing between them and the ocean). We picked up shells and rocks and sticks on our walks. On one walk she asked “Why do we have to be quiet?” and she learned that on the contrary, when in bear and moose country it’s best not to be quiet so you don’t surprise one. So every walk we took you could hear her cheerfully announce “Hi Bears! Hi Mooses!”. She got her first chance to look through binoculars (they’re so much fun when you look through the wrong end!) and peered at seaweed through a magnifying glass. She’s smart, she knows that there are no penguins in the north and that I’ve never lived in an igloo and that I don’t have to worry about polar bears roaming the streets. Which is a lot more then some of her fellow country persons know if my last trip “Outside” (i.e. Outside of Alaska) is any indication.