Juvenile Bald eagle, one of last summer's "Butchie Boys"
Buffleheads panicking across water
Harbor Seal on the rocksYesterday, the sun was shatteringly brilliant on the water of Totman Cove. The wind was tearing through the trees and across the water. It was breathtakingly cold at about zero degrees Fahrenheit with the wind chill factor. In spite of this, the birds were busy. A flock of more than fifty Buffleheads were joined by a few Common goldeneyes, dozens of White-winged scoters, loons, mergansers and American Black ducks. An undulating phalanx of eighty mallards flew south above the cove.
In the middle of the melee of birds, a juvenile Bald eagle got everyone's attention, including mine. It was one of The Butchie Boys of last summer trying out his hunting skills. The Buffleheads and goldeneyes scurried on the water, rose and settled repeatedly. Though there were dozens of them, they dove simultaneously disappearing in a rush. Herring gulls in kettles of hundreds wheeled and rolled through the skies. The Black ducks huddled together, flapping and quaking like fools.
The Butchie Boy loped across the sky, skirting the tree line. The birds were nervous and when he dove for them, they panicked lifting off the water in a flurry of wings and salt spray. The young eagle must be hungry by now. It's late in the winter and months into slim prey pickings. Ice has narrowed his hunting grounds forcing him to open water. Though there are hundreds of waterfowl, he's an unseasoned hunter. Even an experienced eagle gets less than twenty percent of the birds he intends to dine on. If he hadn't been so self absorbed, he could have asked me for a handout. I would have thrown him a hot dog from the freezer, or perhaps one of the dehydrated, lost HotPockets hidden in the back.
Though the wind was bitter, I stepped out the door to photograph some of the action. Naturally, I was wearing my bathrobe. This is where a writer given to overwriting would say that the folds of the robe licked up around her legs, further exposing her. She'd say "frigid air bit into her tender flesh." But, I have way too much self control for that.
A great fear, a terror even, that writers have is "writer's block." We all worry that there won't be anything new to write about. We obsess that the muse has left us to tickle the creative fancy of some one other than ourselves. We fear we'll be orphaned by our own brains. This crosses my mind sometimes, too. But, the rational part of my brain, the stern governess that supervises the fickle filly of my creativity, says "Be quite. Be patient. Something will come along." If I wheedle and whine, the governess admonishes, "Don't be a hog!" The governess knows I'm a little piggy, too.
Once, decades ago, someone gave to me as a joke a two pound box of cheap, assorted chocolates. The box was adorned with red writing and a cheesy, gold sash printed diagonally across the cover. It was the size of a suitcase. My friends taunted me, "You're not really going to eat that crap, are you?" "Gross!" I hadn't intended to eat them, but once they started giving me grief, I defended the box of chocolates as vigorously as I defend my decrepit bathrobe today. "Yes! Yes I am going to eat them, every one of them!" I declared.
As a matter of principle, I refused to share any of my chocolate booty with my critical, jeering friends. I carried it around everywhere I went for over a week, guarding it so they couldn't purloin the sweets. I took it to bed with me. When I bathed, I took the box into the bathroom. Secretly, I punched a hole into the bottom of every one of the bon bons to see what was inside. I nibbled the corners off before eating any to make sure that I didn't get a mouthful of the DREADED JELLY. If the DREADED JELLY was detected, I put the bon bon back in the box. A few, weak sneak attacks were launched by my friends who over powered me, wresting the box from my grip. I fought them, regaining control of the box, though they did manage to get a few, which they threw into the trees, laughing wildly as they did. After weeks of this, I finally was too weakened to continue to defend the bon bon box. In a final attack, like a pride of lions that have finally worn down a tender antelope, they tore the box from me and threw it into a nearby river. I grieved. But, I took solace in knowing that most of what was left inside was only DREADED JELLIES, not anything of real value to me. I had secretly already eaten every oozing, carmel, chocolate, nutmeat filled delicacy. Writer's block is like a box of cheap chocolates; the writer always worries that the next idea will be a DREADED JELLY and that someone else will get all the good ones.
Bathrobe Birding gives me nearly endless things to write about and photograph. Additionally, there are the blooms, bees, beasts and their kin. As I was photographing the eagle and ducks, this Harbor seal slopped itself up onto the rocks. Out of water they are as graceless as writers without the words. We frequently have seals in the cove, but they never leave the safety of the sea for the rocks. I don't know what possessed it. Its appearance, to over work a metaphor, was an unexpected, surprise bon bon in the box. It's reassuring that if the Bathrobe Birding fails, I can move on to Bathrobe Beasting - a whole new box of chocolates.