Last night a big bear walked right down the beach just as I got home from the assembly meeting. I may have missed him had my phone not pinged with texts from neighbors: Brown bear on its way to you on the beach from the south– The bear just walked right by. He’s big — Bear in Diane and Ron’s compost.  The night before I woke Chip up to help me take the salmon out of the smokehouse at midnight, as it was dark (It must be August) and the tide was very high which means any bear walking by would be very near the house, and I did not want to tempt one and really did not want to meet one on its way to steal my salmon or while taking a peek in the chicken coop.

In other news, it’s First Friday downtown and Tom McGuire is signing his new novel Steller’s Orchid (it’s very good!) at the bookstore and there is a mini sort of farmer’s market at the new sculpture garden in Fort Seward. I have been canning that smoked salmon and baking a cake. the gillnetters are fishing in Lutak for more of the same beautiful blue-back Chilkoot sockeye. I’ll grill some to go with that cake for dinner tonight. The ferry strike is apparently over, the recall of the terrible Governor has begun, and in the way everything is all mixed up and high and low and hot and cold these days, the assembly gave KHNS public radio station 20,000 dollars last night to help make up for some of his awful budget vetoes.

At the end of our meeting, an assembly woman asked about a strange dead bird she saw on the beach by the cruise ship dock. It’s big she said, and not an eagle. It’s orange, she said, and pointed to the manager’s blouse, a light orange, like that.  What kind of exotic bird is it? Does anyone know?

It may be a chicken, I said.

What would a chicken be doing on the beach? Chickens don’t swim.

The assemblyman who is a fisherman said an eagle drowned trying to swim out by his boat this week.

My guess is the hen did not drown. Lucky chickens who are well loved do die of old age (which can be around five or six). It happens. Sometimes there are burials at sea. (You can’t leave it in the compost. Bears.) Perhaps there was even a ceremony at the end of the dock involving song and prayer. A few flowers tossed over the railing with the beloved Buff Orpington layer. The tides have been extreme. Could be she washed back up. Could be a bear has already had her for breakfast by now. Could be our bear from last night.

I am already imagining the story: The peeping chick arriving with her siblings and cousins in a box at the post office in early spring, the first warm brown egg, the first ride in the car to show and tell … but that is the stuff of dark winter afternoons. Now it’s time to frost that cake and clean up the kitchen and go for a walk to look for bear tracks on the beach.