The Color of the Mendenhall

Charlotte Lenox | Mendenhall River, Alaska

The Mendenhall River pools at the foot of an Alaskan glacier, then drains past my childhood home and into the emerald sea. Low at the height of summer, a trickle in the deep of winter, and flush at the first birdsong of spring, the river is always skin-shearing cold. Rapids roared through my open window, and swelled with the rainforest’s perspiration to lap at our deck steps.

The Mendenhall is milky jade and impenetrable. Dip fingers in the water, and silt glitters. The water only cleared when a dry spell left behind a mossy quartz boulder for a barefoot step and a silent pool. The sun barely warmed its shallow glaze and arthropod treasure. Diving beetles, water boatmen, stickleback fishes, orange foam—life that would all rinse downriver with the autumn rains.

Until then, the river was my playground and my home.

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