Saturday, September 19, 2009

A View from the Beach

I live about 2 blocks from a Great Lake, which means that at any moment of the day, my neighborhood can experience completely different weather patterns than the rest of the city and I get to see a variety of birds as they migrate from one end of the globe to another. You have to keep both your eyes and your ears open, though, or you'll miss the feathered visitors.

Yesterday, perched atop an aging lifeguard watchtower among some gulls were two cormorants. Apparently their feathers are not entirely waterproof, so it's likely they had stopped to thoroughly dry out their wings—maybe grab a bite to eat—before moving on. Their graceful necks and elongated bodies were a welcome visual change from the gulls and pigeons we usually find on the beach. I tried to take a picture for you, but my worse-than-useless cellphone wouldn't cooperate. I stood in one spot for so long that my pooch forgot why we were at the beach and became quite the statue. It took a while to rouse her from her senior stupor.

Earlier this week we heard the clarion call of Winter: geese. We looked up to find their misshapen V formation heading south. For the first time in my life, I wanted to tag along. I've had enough of changing in and out of extreme weather gear for what seems like half the year—boots, snow pants, two pairs of gloves, three sweaters, parka, muffler, hat, plus dressing the dog in her boots and down coat and goggles when it's windy. I'm ready for a milder climate. So is the pooch.

Last week was a great show of both sights and sounds. As we were leaving the beach, the pigeons started to fret. I could hear a hawk, but didn't see one. I figured the hawk was looking for a meal. The pigeons lined the tops of three different buildings in the area and took turns moving from one building ledge to another, 50–100 birds at a time. The hawk had it easy. I kept my head down; I couldn't watch the assassination. But strangely, the pigeons never left the area and the hawk didn't sound persistent about catching one. In fact, I searched the sky around the pigeons but saw no predators. 

When the pooch and I were waiting at a light to cross the street, I finally saw why the pigeons were staying put: The hawk was far above the rooftops and paying no attention to them. Instead, he was playing with another hawk—twirling in midair, bumping into his friend and then performing short freefalls and (it truly sounded like) "giggling" before twirling again.

I couldn't take my eyes off the revelers. To observe nature and bliss intertwined is a miracle of sorts in the inner city. It has healing properties and I didn't want it to stop. In those moments of the hawk-play encounter, the relentless stress of my unemployment and pending eviction and under-par health of both husband and pooch faded from my mind. 

Then the light changed and the pooch and I headed back to Reality.

[Thank you, Mr. Crowley, for your Cormorant pic.]

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