Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Among March

March called on me around noon, the way a friend might, not directly but by dribbling a basketball and clanging the backboard invitingly. So I went outside and we said "Hey" and I followed it down to Mystic River.

The day was calm, with an in and out sun. I heard a cardinal again, but now it's a March cardinal, open for business. I rode on to the copse of woods at the bottom of Lower Mystic Lake, near where I saw the stand of Canada geese on the ice last week. Now no ice whatsoever. Unseen birds were tweeting me. But by the time I finished locking my bike to the leash your dogs sign, they had stopped. So I scanned the Arlington side of the lake for bald eagles. There they were! Both adult and juvenile this time, in adjoining trees near the gazebo that has replaced The Tree at the Medford Boat Club as the reliable hangout. Juvenile noticeably bigger and marked with the piebald of chocolate-marshmallow ice cream.

I knew they were probably watching me with far better binocular vision than mine. And when I awkwardly seated myself in some shore grass it might have been just clumsy enough to offend Junior into flight, because when I looked up again she (probably, by her large size) was in the air, tilting that amazing wingspan as she turned against the backdrop of trees and comfortable houses, and then beat it slowly and magnificently uplake, finally disappearing past the Boat Club dam. When I looked back to see how the adult had taken it, the adult was gone, too.

Nothing for it but to turn back to the woods. For a while, the parts did not coalesce. But then I focused on two robins, a male and female in not too close, not too far proximity. I sensed mutual interest. It didn't develop into a consummation, but they hung around each other, maybe cooled by my surveillance. Or maybe it's just not April yet. In any case, a nice thing was happening. A few nuthatches were bellying down nearby trunks. Tufted titmice were showing up. A dark-eyed junco or two. Any downy woodpeckers? Yep, there was one working a limb, leaning back, red patch foremost. And a white-throated sparrow peeking out of a bush. No "Old Sam Peabody Peabody Peabody" call yet. But there was a call I knew: the "teakettle teakettle teakettle" of a Carolina wren.

It didn't all happen in a heavy traffic way. These were shy and subtle comings and goings, punctuated by multiple robins scratching in the dead leaves. But the good part was that feeling of being among birds. This happens when the parts do begin to coalesce, the trees and underbrush start to make a habitat sense, not excluding you but including you, and you feel more than just a witness, if not a participant. Something like being embedded in nature, which, it shouldn't surprise us to know, we actually are.

I tried taking a picture of the sparrow, which briefly took me out of the scene. It was a while before the among-ness returned. But however brief, or fragile, this was something new. A yielding. A softer energy.

Note: No rabbits were harmed in the planning or creation of the March 1 post. "Welsh rabbit" is made from toast, melted cheese, mustard, and other non-rabbit ingredients.

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