"Wild Alaskan Mother"

An Alaskan Short Story Adventure by Alaskan Artist Dianne Roberson
Female Moose and her calves in my yard in Palmer, Alaska.
Long warm summer days in the Mat-Su Valley extend almost endlessly having no real darkness to divide one from the other.  
Sometimes I remain awake all night just to watch the dimming light erase the midnight sun.  It gives off cool air as it spreads a
soft grey night in the sky just before dawn.  Tonight was another sleepless summer night in
Alaska; a night that beckoned me
to stay awake and be part of it.  

I felt the vibrations of her heavy body through the earth when her hoofs hit the gravel outside my window long before I caught
sight of her form.  I could feel her circle the house and quietly I walked to the thin screen over my open window and peered
out.  She was huge, with golden brown hair almost as thick as fur covering her muscular body.  Effortless, she ripped a large
limb off the birch tree and slowly chewed the soft new leaves, stopping only long enough to push a few leaves toward the new
born calf at her side.  I watched her as she moved closer and ate the small bush near my window.  Once, she looked up right
at me; I didn’t move but still she backed away taking the calf along with her.  As they walked toward the creek, I grabbed my
binoculars and followed her movements. The creek was swollen with cold water from the ice that was still melting on the
distant
Alaska Chugach Mountains.  She drank until her belly was swollen, then gently nudged her calf toward a small pool
of water away from the rapidly flowing creek.  

I knew she would not return near the house since she had spotted me, so I backed away from the window knowing she was
alert and watching for my movements. I satisfied my own thrust with a cold drink of well water.  A good thing about these light
nights in
Alaska, I didn’t need to turn any electric lights on to illuminate the room.  I sat in my easy chair in front of the big
windows in my studio quietly waiting for her return.  I knew she would not come back if she felt me moving around.  I didn’t
have to wait long before I heard the gravel fly and tree branches breaking.   

The next few hours, I sat and watched the beautiful wild mother nurture her calf.  She stood still and nibbled on grass as the
calf nursed.  Then she seemed to inspect her baby all over, occasionally giving the calf a lick.  She ran down the drive way
and stopped abruptly and looked around to see if the calf was with her.  Then the two of them slowly walked back toward my
windows where she lay down in a mound of wildflowers while the calf pulled at the stems and dropped them.  I was so close to
them I could have touched them if not for the glass window between us.  The clicking of my camera startled the
moose.  She
look straight at me, then got up and walked to the edge of the drive way.  I quietly walked to the door and ventured out for a
photo, but she moved further away.  It was time for me to retreat again.  This time I opened all the big windows before I sat
down.  Now only a thin nylon screen was between us.   

All that night I was allowed to watch her nurture her calf as long as I sat quietly.  Once she looked me straight in the eye and
seemed to study me for several minutes.  I had never had eye contact with a moose* before.  When the bright sun rose over
the
Alaska Mountain Range, she walked into the thick woods with her calf at her heels.  I went to bed and slept till noon.

She returned a few nights later.  I sat near the windows and sketched her and her calf for hours.  I thought a lot about the
similar behavior patterns of mother’s as I recorded her motions.  She feed, cleaned, and played with her calf with loving
movements much the same as I had with my children.  After a few weeks of enjoying our encounters, I missed her when she
did not come but was soon busy watching a black bear roaming near the creek.  He spotted me at my cloths line, and then we
both ran in opposite directions.  When he was sure I was gone, the young bear quickly climbed the tree that anchored my
clothsline.  He hung around for a week investigating my area.   

One rainy day, I was off on a walk.  As usual my mind was cluttered with dozens of projects.  I had become comfortable with
the young animals visiting me this summer and even though I carried a gun with me for protection on these long walks in the
Mat-Su Valley, it wasn’t my first instinct to use it.  When I heard the sound of flying gravel and the vibrations of heavy weight
hitting the ground from behind me, I reached for my camera.  It happened so fast, that quiet rainy morning.

Startled, I turned to look at her wild eyes and gaping mouth as she crashed into my shoulder and knocked me to the earth.  I
fell on my gun and was unable to unzip the zipper on the bag that it was in.  I looked up at her enraged face and feared my
end was imminent.  We both froze for an instant as our eyes locked.  She was the first to move.  She turned and ran down the
mountain.  I drug myself up the rocky slope toward safety thankful that my wounds were minor.  As I looked back; her calf was
running to catch up with his mom.    

*  
Moose are tall, long-legged and heavy-bodied animals. They stand six to seven feet tall at the withers and can rest or sleep
standing upright.  On average, males, also called bulls, weigh around 1400 pounds, and females, called cows, weigh around
950 pounds.  Distinguishing physical characteristics include large, widely spaced ears, a large drooping nose with prehensile
muzzle, a "bell" or dewlap on the throat, and a small tail.  The subspecies found in Alaska, the tundra moose (Alces alces
gigas).  Moose depend more on their acute senses of hearing and smell to detect activity around them then they do on their
vision. They exhibit monoscopic vision that necessitates bodily compensation (moving of the head and rolling the eyes) to
assess objects at close range.  Antlers play a key role in visual signaling in moose, over long distances and in open
landscape, antlers can very effectively reflect light, especially when their velvet is shed in the fall.

Dianne Roberson is a free-lance artist, writer, and photographer who works from her
art studio in Palmer, Alaska and in her
digital art gallery on line at:
 http://www.artworldplus.com where you can view her prints.
Female Moose nursing her calf in my yard
near Palmer, Alaska.
Female Moose walking with her calf in my
yard near Palmer, Alaska.
Art World Plus Art Gallery |  Alaskan Art by Alaskan Artist  
Dianne Roberson   |  Palmer, Alaska  99645  

Phone/Fax:  907-775-4229  |   E-Mail:   dianne@artworldplus.com
         
Copyright 2005       ©  Dianne Roberson  All rights reserved.
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