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The Keeper
Where death and the beauty of life come together... An essay of a man who has chosen his final resting place on the tip of a small island in Southeast Alaska; surrounded by life and the beauty of nature, he is "The Keeper".
[687 words]
E. L. Bennett
[April 2001]
The Keeper
E. L. Bennett

   Nestled behind the stark cold structures of a military base is the home of Mr. John Brown. He welcomes all to his grounds to enjoy the beauty of the island that surrounds him. He is the keeper of this small piece of Southeast Alaska, the tip of Japonski Island.
   The trail leading out to his humble abode is well maintained. A small bridge along the way looks over the water of the sound where seaplanes make their approach to the neighboring island. As we walk up the trail, five-inch long slugs sauntering across the path usually greet us. Even if we miss them on their travels, the slick slime trails left behind remind us of their existence. Shortly there after, we acknowledge Mr. Brown’s presence. His home sits off to the left of the trail surrounded by a weather stained white picket fence.
   The deeper into the woods we walk, the more the trees seem to close in around us as the trail narrows. The walk through this terrain is always dark and eerie but just ahead is an opening where the sun’s rays dance through the heavy canopy. We walk closer to the light; the gravel beneath our feet slowly changes to smooth oval shaped rocks and pebbles. The confining forest walls open to a secluded little beach. This beach is not like the sandy beaches of Oahu, Hawaii or the wide-open beaches of Nags Head, North Carolina. This beach provides only a small opening for the lapping waves to touch its shores; there is no sand, for the rounded rocks and pebbles go all the way to the water’s edge; maybe one day a year, the beach will see someone in a bathing suit but never on a surfboard.
   Huge boulders rest atop the small pebbles on the way down to the beach, creating a twisted trail to the water. Some are small enough that we can step up onto them and jump from one boulder to the next; however, many require a bit of skill to climb to the tops. These permanent residents of the beach make wonderful resting spots where we can sit and enjoy the view. Their main goal though is to protect the beach and its inhabitants. Together they combine to form the opening to the sea. Protruding into the water as to guard the beach, they display their strength as they take on the waves of the ocean. But inside their formations they gently cradle tidal water life.
   Inside the giant boulders rest small ponds of seawater, which house an abundance of sea life. My son’s favorites are the hermit crabs. They are smaller than dimes. He loves to catch them, place them on the rocks, and watch them scurry away. He always wants to take one home; we convince him that they would miss their family too much if we removed them from their home. My husband and I are most fond of the starfish. They are orange, red, violet, but mostly purple. The purple ones are my favorite. They seem to stick together. They line up like soldiers on the bottom of rocks clinging to the protective boulders and each other. It is not unusual to see fifteen or twenty of them line up just below the water’s edge.
   The sun goes down and our outing slowly comes to an end; we rest a moment and watch as Mother Nature paints the sky over the Pacific Ocean. She uses brilliant shades of pink, violet and purple. Then as if she could erase the canvas, she replaces the softer colors with more vibrant yellows, oranges and reds.
   The sun now hiding behind the mountains, we make our way back. Once again we pass Mr. John Brown’s burial site – his home -- along the trail. Most people choose to surround themselves with death when they pass away. Mr. Brown instead chose life. His tombstone dictates nothing more than his name and the years he lived – simple and to the point – as if not to distract us from the beauty that encompasses his resting place.



"Nice descriptions of simple nature, nice choice of a grave site, shows someone's love of life. " -- Shelley, Fullerton, California, USA.


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© 2001 E. L. Bennett
April 2001

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