Sitting in an over-sized comfy chair in the lobby of a large casino hotel, indoor waterfalls burbling merrily over fake rocks. This atrium is over two stories tall with picture windows for the outside walls so the whole area is flooded with natural sunlight. There are real plants as part of the indoor landscaping all around the perimeter, including trees about eight or so feet tall. I am just lounging listening to a book, drinking a delectable coffee when movement catches my attention. Turning my head, I can not immediately figure out what it was. Another movement in the corner of my vision, turn my head, and, nothing. Weird. I go back to watching the water cascade over the plastic rocks, sunlight glinting off the spray as it falls into the wishing pool below. A little bird flits quickly by! Suddenly I realize what I have been seeing in my peripheral vision. I follow its path and see it land in one of the trees. It’s small and brown, hiding in the shadowed foliage. Taking the earbuds out to listen, I begin to discern through all the surrounding noise a chirping tweeting sound. I closely watch the trees and discover there are several little birds living in the indoor space, flitting around from waterfall, to trees, to structural beams up near the ceiling. For them its a climate controlled floral paradise!
I had a glorious walk this morning, up the hollow and back again. I am bundled against the morning chill, as much of the valley stays in shadow until afternoon. Today I saw a plethora of birds. Mergansers were playing in the riffles near the bridge, floating downstream, bobbing on the ripples, then flying back upstream to do it over again. A kingfisher calls out its annoyance of the quiet intrusion of my presence on the road above the creek. It dashes into flight chattering away into the distance. Blue Jays, Crows, and Ravens raucously jeer and heckle as I pass by. Chick-a-dees, Juncos, Titmice, Cedar Waxwings flitter and chitter in the tree branches and underbrush. I see the bright red of a male Cardinal flashing as he flees my company. I know his mate is nearby, but her camouflage hides her well and I do not find her. A Great Blue Heron takes flight, its huge graceful wings flapping wildly, long spindly legs dangling, as it lifts up, flies a short distance, and glides back to stand at the water’s edge. I can never be lonely walking this road, because I am never actually alone!
This morning, I got up early with the sun, went over to a nearby state park and put my kayak in the water. Warm yellow sunlight pouring in from the eastern horizon, flowing out overt the lake like liquid happiness. I paddled quietly around the shoreline to see what I could see in the quiet morning stillness. Large catfish with swishing tails, rooting through dead tree branches in the shallows, large algae covered turtles swimming lazily near the surface, birds flitting between trees twittering morning greetings to each other, green and red lily pads and bright happy water lilies, the smell of campfire smoke drifting on unseen air currents from early risers in the camp ground, and then a family of mallard ducks. Mamma duck proud and watchful paddling slowly along the shore with seven little fluffy yellowish brown baby ducks paddling their tiny webbed feet furiously to keep up. I kept a respectful distance so as not to frighten the little family, but watched them paddle and feed for quite q while. Mamma kept her eye on the the whole time, but didn’t try to chase my off. Baby ducklings peeping for attention and mamma duck keeping them moving down the lake shore, learning how to be good little ducks.
I love watching week by week as all the different bird species return from wherever they spend the cold winter months. Today, the sky is overcast, the new spring leaves persist in shining with yellow green perfection, grass is growing profusely, flowers are blooming, and I am doing housework. Cats in the front picture window catch my attention, I follow their unwavering gaze out to the bird feeders in the front lawn. Perched, bright and beautiful is a male Rose Breasted Grosbeak, pecking seed for his meal. Black head, white belly, black and white wing bars, and as suggested and large beak and a bright red chest. The females are subdued, brown and white and never far away from the males. This to me is more of a sign of spring’s arrival than the typical robin. They show up when it’s still snowing, but a Rose Breasted Grosbeak means summer is on its way!
I am standing at a giant picture window many stories above the ground, looking out across the undulating landscape, under an overcast sky. A flitting movement catches my eye, dragging my gaze downward, but is gone before I can really see what it was. I stare, transfixed, until a small brown bird swoops back into view. I stand watching the place it materialized, and a few minutes later it (or its mate)returns carrying a twig in its beak. I watch for maybe half an hour as these birds make numerous trips carrying small sticks to ledge I can not see from this vantage point. But it is fascinating to witness their determination for building their nest to keep their future eggs and chicks safe and warm.
In my flannel pajamas, fleece robe, and wool slippers, sitting in a rocker on the porch, drinking coffee, both hands wrapped around the mug soaking up its comforting warmth, watching wet bedraggled chick-a-dees and juncos flit around the feeder. The morning is grey, sodden, and chilly, just the tiniest green buds are visible on the leafless trees. Spring feels a million miles away, but I will sit right here (im)patiently and wait for it, as long as I have coffee in my cup. I refuse to think of all the things I want to do in the yard when the rainy cold mist finally abates or any of the thousands of indoor projects large and small that need doing but I have no interest in starting. I just want to absorb here and now, observing tiny black and white birds enjoying this grey day. A raucous caw grabs my attention, dragging it across the road, up above the wet grey trees. There he is, a giant black crow, silhouetted against a brightening grey sky, water on his feathers glistening deepest black, a pulling black hole I could fall into, perched atop a bright white branchless dead birch tree. These polar opposites, black and white, shining in the sky, a reverse beacon that has pulled all color from this rainy world leaving only grey, wet, and chill. There is sunshine behinds the wall of fog masquerading as the sky, trying to burn through with its intense silver fire, too bright to look as directly. That glistening deepest black crow calls again, takes flight, and disappears into the the shimmering silver abyss. I sit still, listen to the water drip off the roof and trees, watch the chick-a-dees, smiling.
There is a two mile walk up the road I live on that I like to do for exercise and meditation. The road through the hollow follows the our creek half a mile up to a one lane bridge that was rebuilt more than a year after Hurricane Irene destroyed it. The next half mile is a one lane dirt road up a steep spring fed small rushing creek, a tributary to our creek. Up and back is a peaceful two mile serene walk full of natural wonders if ones is quiet enough in mind and spirit to notice them. Down the road there is an open meadow between a house and the water, and a wide flat wooded island at a bend of the creek’s flow. This is where the king fishers hang out when they come back in the spring. A medium sized bird with blue grey wings, a white chest and a black necklace, they have a distinctive flight pattern, and a unique call, a chittering chirping that rings out across the hollow and can be heard over the sound of the rushing water. As I walked down the road toward home, one took flight from the bare branches above me gliding over to the next tree down the road, call ringing out in the sunlight. I tracked his flight, watched him perch, and wait until I was too close. Once again he take off chittering and gliding to the next tree down the road. This slow motion chase replayed five or six times before he deviated course by flying out over the field closer to the water, and upstream toward where we had come from. There he was joined by another king fisher, they danced around each other in the air before flying separate ways, still chittering. Is that a territory thing? I hear them calling as I continue down the road.