There is a cabin in Klag Bay we called the Ballard place. Decades ago a woman and her husband tried to mine gold there. Climbing around in the alder, we found traces of their lives: a shed, partially damaged by fire; rails laid down to transport tailings from adits above. The house had fallen into disrepair; against better judgment we climbed the failing stairs to poke around inside.
Over the years I went there, scavengers had carried off the good stuff: an old time radio, wooden furniture, a unique doorknob. Clothes still hung from hooks and tins of food bulged on shelves. The best things had no value though. On the windowsills someone had placed pieces of beach glass, worn smooth from tide and waves. They were all translucent colors: white, blue, green. It was hard to say what they had once been: wine bottles? They were transformed into something rare and wonderful.
Hans grew impatient and paced outside, reminding us that the falling tide waited for no woman. But I was fascinated by the shards of glass and let them run through my fingers. I kind of wanted to take them, but I knew that in my ordinary house back in town, they would lose their mystery. They would become just more junk to haul around, a story only I would know about.
I haven't been to the Ballard cabin in awhile. Natalie and I went there on the ill-fated kayak patrol two summers ago, briefly escaping the monotony of the endless rain to look inside. Someday the cabin will collapse; the windows are broken out now and the roof was uncertain the last time I saw it.
Nothing is permanent, even the sea; long ago it came up higher on the shore than it does now. We saw the evidence back in the woods, tall cliffs showing where it used to be. It has fallen back a long ways. Once, ice covered all of what we saw: the mountains, the beach, the sea. The rocks we walked across to get back to our kayaks would crumble into sand eventually. Others would paddle their boats to this site and look at the beach glass, glowing faintly in the windowsills of the cabin.
There are times when I want to freeze a moment; it's hard to let go of a place, a time when everything came together in a perfect second. But the tide was falling, it was time to go. We moved away from the Ballard cabin and the beach glass into the rest of our lives.