The Tuluksak River Cabin
By: Brad Cole

It was a late Saturday afternoon and I was standing on a high curved bank overlooking the Kuskokwim River. Across the narrow channel to a small island of willow trees I watched a calf closely follow its mother. Without shaking off the water, they calmly walked out of the cold river onto the grassy shore and disappeared into the barren trees in a ptarmigan grey forest. I came to this place where the Tuluksak River flows out into the Kuskokwim to rest at an abandoned cabin nestled under the swaying birch trees like a forgotten old tire laying in tall wind-driven grass.

On the floor of the back corner I saw a wooden frame for a bed with a dusty moose hide lying on it. In the front corner was a rusty brown woodstove with its door still wide open as though wanting firewood. All about wind blown leaves, grass and feathers littered the floor. A fading picture of “The Last Supper” hung solemnly on back wall. I sat down in a chair at a table beneath a broken window. The dark clouds brought a strong breeze, so I listened to the tree-echoing wind that wrestles its way through the wilderness of time. Where the nation of grass seems to be bent on whispering in low hushed tones to itself.

Territory and its’ rivers are what people and their families are made of, I thought. The law of the land is to bond intimately with it. This is what subsistence teaches a people. From this bond with nature comes culture and nation. A culture based on the artistic and intellectual achievements of the people, a nation based on their strength, integrity and vision. A single healthy river can nurture a whole land and its people, I thought. hile still sitting in the cabin, I heard a heavily throated raven making the sound like a drop of water hitting the bottom of an empty oil drum. It was calling out to its’ windy territory like a mother would call to her own child, I felt.

Seeing the sky darkening into dusk, I got up and stepped out of the cabin to return homeward, hiking down a trail along the bank of the Tuluksak River. Light traces of snow fell from the bluish-grey November sky. Winter will silence the river and send it into a deep slumber, I thought. When you have given up this world – visions will come to you from beyond it. Long ago in a raven darkness a starry night gave birth to winter.