Days on the River

Early mornings on the river now reveal just how circular my own journey is and how natural death is to life. All life blooms, but also fades.  In youth, I ran toward the next Christmas and to the next Halloween and to the next grade and the next teacher and to a boyfriend and to a husband. Never would I suffer divorce. Never, in my imagination, would my mother die.  My brother would not die.  My life long friends would remain at my side always. The abundance of living well, seemed endless.

In reality, the magic that perches at the edge of the river demonstrates again and again that life transforms.  I look down at my own hands at this keyboard this morning and see this transformation in my self. I have no choice but to accept it, while at the same time, I have the opportunity to create magic in others and to watch life unfold in my children and in my grandson.  I also have the choice to embrace the beauty of another fading summer.

My circular walks at the river have healed me throughout this lush green often-wet summer.  I have watched closely as the adult Bald Eagles tended two eggs at their nest, saw them through the biting cold of spring when at last those eggs hatched and almost two months later two beautiful fledglings found their place in a brutal world.

Having watched this mating pair over several seasons, it was sad to watch the disappearance of Mrs., a week after the second youngster fledged.  She was such an inspiring raptor and was vigilant with the two young eagles, demonstrating fiercely, the skills that were intuitive and essential for their start in life.  She may have been evicted or killed and within days, a sub adult began to dominate the territory, eventually captivating Mr. who diligently fed and raised up his two progeny.

These days those same juveniles soar high above me, carving huge circles into a deep blue sky, utterly celebrating what it means to be Bald Eagles.  I sometimes find myself weeping at the enormous beauty of this passage of time as manifested in one little family at the river.

I no longer hear the sounds of the Red-Winged Blackbirds.  Theirs is the first song of spring.  And now, they are gone.  Where only a month ago the Yellow Warblers’ very particular song filled the woods, there is only the occasional flash of bright yellow in the low brush.  Mating and fledging behind them now, where do they disappear?  The sounds of geese returns after a month of silence.  The adult Mallards begin to separate from the juveniles now, after so many weeks of being alert and startling so easily.  The American Pelicans no longer rest in great numbers in the quiet eddies of the Bow.  The changes happen in subtle ways.  One beauty is replaced by another.

Now, the Cedar Waxwing juveniles are practicing flight in great numbers and every evening they are making loops out over the water and back, out and back, lighting in bare branches.  Adults remain vigilant.  Yellow Rumped Warblers have increased in numbers, likely just passing through, and Downy Woodpeckers, Nuthatches and Northern Flickers take up residence.  Many of them will winter here.

Wild Asters are in bloom for a second time and the Thistles are in seed.  Small water bugs fly thick and hover above the racing water.  The fish jump. Conversations with the fishermen include stories of Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout and Pike.  They pull out their phones and scroll through their photographs, proudly telling me their fishing narratives.  They  humour me with observations of the eagles.

The native grasses are now beyond my shoulders and the closeness creates that feeling of being watched, a mystical feeling of not being alone.  Sometimes, I look to the left and deer are perfectly still and their eyes meet mine.  Their eyes are pools of dark liquid, staring.  They do not move. We are captivated by one another.  If I move at all they flinch or huff and spook into the trees. The coyotes sulk into the tall growth and disappear.  It is in this stillness where I discover life, abundantly.  I look up and a juvenile eagle is peering at me.  The Grey Catbirds, now gone, would remain absolutely still as I slipped by.  The Eastern Kingbirds, showmen as they are, perform their antics with seemingly no fear.  Their numbers are also dwindling at the river’s edge.

Once, the stillness was broken by the loud slap of a beaver in the quiet eddy to the south.  Another time, with my back to the water, I heard a powerful bang and quickly pivoted around to see an Osprey lift up and out of the water, huge fish clutched in its talons.  The sounds at the river are mesmerizing…and now, with the tall grasses turning gold, those sounds can be very soft and comforting.

 

Tansy is changing from brilliant yellow to brown.  Leaves drift silently to the ground from the highest canopy.  I am in awe that summer is at an end.

Over the coming weeks, the Bald Eagles will eek out their place on the river.  Mr. will no longer provide the two youngsters with food.  He will evict them and they will begin their struggle to survive through another bitterly cold winter.  I don’t have any idea how to end this post because life at the river has no real end.  It is a place of beginnings.

I know this.  I know that we must challenge everything in the world that does not steward the land and the earth and the air.  Life is a brutal thing.  Death is brutal.  We must protect the little ones.  We must leave my grandson this beauty…I can not imagine him not knowing what a world of abundance we were given.

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