Pilgrim at Fish Creek

The little dog and I rush out the door again, again wanting to see the Fish Creek delta while the morning light is still good. Okay, that was a human-centric statement. While I wanted to see the delta washed by the kind of light captured by Flemish painters, Aki would have preferred a sleep in. She’s joined up to make sure I don’t get into trouble. It’s still cold enough on the delta for me to need gloves. (Another human-centric statement). The grass not yet touched by the morning sun is covered with a fine frost. Crow caws and eagle screams let everything within a mile that Aki is back in town. 

            As I watch a solitary swallow thin out the mosquito population, I think about Annie Dillard and her book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. She dived deep in what her creek had to offer on each of her many visits. If she lived in our rain forest, what would she make of seeing only one swallow instead of the expected cloud of its kind diving and gliding after flying bugs. The scene might inspire her to get out her copy of Silent Sprintand return each morning in hope of seeing more swallows hunting over the meadow. 

            Trying on Ms. Dillard’s skin for size, I lead Aki along the creek, watching mallards in twos and threes fly over our heads and those of roosting eagles to the same meadow where I watched to swallow. Would she guess that the flooding tide forced the ducks into the air? 

            Crows seem to be every where, wading in shallow ponds, bathing in the fast moving creek, pecking their way through meadow grass. So are eagles. A brace of mature eagles keeps watch on each end of the causeway that links the mainland with a small, spruce-covered island. The island seems infested with noisy crows. We inadvertently flush an immature eagle from the edge of the island by walking under its roosting tree. It circles over our head and lands in a different roosting tree. Ms. Dillard might ask what is keeping all these eagles on the parameter of a crow-infested island. 

Aki gives me her worried look, something she conveys by flexing her eyebrows.  She doesn’t care about natural philosophy or biology or Annie Dillard. She was touched by the shadow of a predator. “Time,” the ten-pound-poodle-mix seems to say, “to go.” 

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