I live and write on Lingít Aaní, and gratefully acknowledge the past, present and future caretakers of this beautiful place, the Jilkaat Kwaan and Jilkoot Kwaan.

“Bad weather always looks worse through a window”- Tom Leher

10 am on the Chilkat. 36 degrees. Rainy with a stiff south wind on top of fresh snow. Enough beach to walk on below the snow.

“It could be worse,” I said, laughing as we ducked into the wind. It felt like we were being sprayed with a cold hose.

“Yes, we woke up this morning and are still breathing,” Beth said.

“And walking on strong legs,” I said. Remembering Jane Kenyon’s poem, “Otherwise.”

“The dogs are happy.”

They ran ahead when we cut up on the path.

She noticed a spruce tree that would have been perfect for Christmas, except for the wonky top. Still, it probably saved that tree to live another day back when it was small enough to fit in a living room. And if you look again, you can see the top is a natural star.

Yesterday morning at this time, walking in deeper, fresh snow on the way up to our friend’s cabin with her to pick up after a bear broke in, Chip, Jane and I speculated on how bad it might be. We saw first hand what a bear can do a few years ago when our nearby cabin was trashed. That’s the best word for it. Then, the bear banged in two windows before breaking the door off its jamb. He tore off the kitchen cabinet doors, smashed the coffee jar on the floor, bit the dish soap and squeezed it out, jumped on the olive oil container and squirted it everywhere,  and then smeared all of it around with broken glass and mud. He tried to pry the pantry door off, but failed, so yanked the closet door from its hinges and spilt it in half. He dragged the rest of the food into the yard and smashed it up out there.

Yes, we were prepared for the worst and hoping for the best. What we found was, “it could be worse,” and that was a relief. Great, actually.

The neighbor met us, and had already picked up some. He said he didn’t think the bear was still around, but we had bear spray, just in case. I had grabbed paper towels and an all-purpose cleaner too, and stuffed them in my pack with work gloves and a light.

The windows weren’t broken, and neither was the door. Only the latch. “An easy fix,” Chip said.

But not a pretty sight. To show a picture– even with before ( awful) and after (much better) seems like a double violation. Like those photos at the scene of a fatal accident, or a crime. It’s not my cabin. It’s a friend’s home, and it didn’t look its best. I’m sure you can imagine what a hungry, wild bear might do in your house. Still, as Chip said, again,  “It could be worse.”

The best part, was all of us cleaning up, working fast and hard and in surprisingly good spirits, considering. It’s a nice feeling to face a disaster and be able to do something about it. While Pat repaired the hole in the shed where the bear busted through he said, “Lucky there was nothing in here it could get into.” As Jane picked up the toppled pantry shelf and swept up popcorn, she found an intact bottle of schnapps. “It’s still good.”  (And no– we resisted a nip. Bear germs are gross and the cabin is well off any grid. We had no quick way to warm water and properly wash up.)

We cleaned as best we could, and our best was pretty good, if I do say so myself, and then we buttoned up the door under its lucky horseshoe, agreeing it had worked. There is still plenty to do in the coming days, but the major mess is gone.

I was happy the winter storm held off until we were back at the bottom of the trail with nine full trash bags a few hours later. By the time we got home the snow was falling in earnest, and Jack had already plowed the driveway.

When the police sent an alert to stay off the roads an hour later, I felt lucky to have a warm, clean house. At breakfast I had been grouching about all the dog hair. You know, “It could be worse,” must be the most underrated–  and oddly hopeful sentiment, in the English language.