Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Two wing beats

Last winter, between Christmas and New Year’s, Ben and I were walking Lily in a blinding snow storm. We were skirting the edge of Traver Creek, a tributary to the Huron River that runs through our apartment complex. Something odd caught my eye, and there, not more than ten feet from us, was a magnificent Great Blue Heron, walking down the middle of the creek, slowly, like his feet were really cold, moving as they do: step, neck, head, step, neck, head. We watched in awed silence (even Lily) as the magnificent bird walked into the blinding white.

I really wondered why he was here, so late in the season, still walking in the creek. New Year’s Day, when we met up with our neighbors to play in the great snow, I mentioned it to Tanya, who is a great out doors enthusiast. She told me she felt so bad because earlier in the fall she had had her dog off lead, and Pola, the dog, had chased a great blue who was striding up onto the lawn from the creek.

Today was a magnificent warm day, sunny and dry. Ben watched TV while I took Lily out for her after dinner walk: I figure I ask so much of him to spend 9 hours in day care, I can let him choose Thomas the Train over the pooping walk. As Lily and I rounded the corner of building, there, at the edge of creek and heading toward the lawn, was a Great Blue again. This time, we couldn’t close the distance more than 5o yards: she took flight, a few running steps then those great, huge wings stroked once, twice, and she was over the roof of the next building, and off toward the Huron.

What is it that is so enticing, exciting about the great birds? They are so huge, and so deliberate in their movement. In early March, I was out with Lily early in the morning and two swans flew overhead. Truth be told, they stay all winter where there is open water, and thermal pollution is so bad that there is usually open water around here—but when they flew over it was magical and I believed them to be harbingers of spring—they are so huge, how do they stay airborne?

How did the Great Blue tonight clear the two-story building with just two beats of her wings?

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