Posts Tagged ‘raptors’

Georgia, Haiku, Bones, Minneapolis, Minnesota, iPhone Shots, on the Partial Solar Eclipse, April 30th, 2022, photo © 2022 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Georgia, Haiku, Bones, Minneapolis, Minnesota, iPhone Shots, on the Partial Solar Eclipse, April 30th, 2022, photo © 2022 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Landscape – The Osprey

The walk along Boone Avenue skirts the edge of Northwood Lake, a shallow 15-acre section of the North Branch of Bassett Creek. I drive home from work through busy Twin Cities suburbs to avoid rush hour traffic. Liz moves the opposite direction down Boone on her daily walks. We meet in the middle. Last Wednesday I spotted her orange neon Nikes, index finger high to the sky, jousting the wind. I pulled over. “Do you see it, do you see it?” she said. “You’ve got to get out?!”

I put my hand up to visor my eyes. The raptor soared on the thermals, dipped over two great blue herons nesting in cattails, swooped above a pair of loons in the middle of the lake, glided over our heads, and rose again. Finally, her yellow eyes spotted her prey. We watched as she jettisoned underwater, talons first, splashed lean like an Olympic diver, arose with dinner, and flew away. In all the time we have lived here, this is the first we have spotted an osprey on Northwood Lake.

Osprey dive for fish from heights of 30 to 120 feet, plunging feet first, submerging their entire bodies beneath the water. Airborne again, they reposition the fish for streamlined transport so that the head faces forward. While underwater they close their third eyelid which acts like goggles to help them see clearly. Pairs return to the same nest year after year, each contributing to the structure of their home, much like we have during the pandemic. Raptors bring us great joy on our daily walks. Yet they are susceptible to a virus in the wild – the highly pathogenic avian flu (HPAI).

The answer is yes. I have enjoyed my life. But in the underbelly, I have thought long and hard the last few years about the reality of death. Pandemics. Viruses. Wars. Age. So many lost. My mother died in hospice at my brother’s a year ago in April. By some miracle, vaccinations had become available and we road tripped to Pennsylvania to spend her last weeks on Earth with her. She continues to teach us even in death.

Lineage – Root Teachers

The day of the osprey fell in the first week of whittling my job down to 32 hours, Fridays off. At the end of the year, I will no longer work my day job. In celebration, Liz presented me with a package, a surprise gift to mark new beginnings. We sat in Veronica, my aging 2006 red Mini-Cooper, windows open to spring. Liz smiled and slid a haiku book out from under her windbreaker — Diane di Prima. The 1967 version is a handprinted collaboration with her friend, artist George Herms. Each page presents like haiga. The cherry woodblock illustrations by George were originally printed on a cleaned up rusty press from the Topanga Playhouse that later became LOVE Press. He used an individual color for each print on Mohawk Superfine Eggshell White paper. I now own one of a thousand of the first bound editions of Haiku issued in 2019, commemorating the 50th anniversary.

The second gift from Liz was a set of Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones Deck, a 2021 extension of her 1986 classic, Writing Down the Bones. (Have you enjoyed your life? is Card 51.)

The last time I saw Natalie in person was at a haiku workshop in Santa Fe at Upaya Zen Center in February 2020. I was able to briefly connect when we sat down at lunch. I told tell her how grateful I am for everything she has taught me. It’s a gift to have had the opportunity to see her again. On the layover flight back through Salt Lake City, I noticed one lone man wearing a surgical mask, a precursor of what was to come.

By March 2020, everything in Minnesota shut down. So much has happened in between. I worked in the field through the pandemic, where we masked every day and built nuts to bolts machines that filled vaccine bottles. Liz worked from home. We signed up for Zoom and joined Upaya as members. In 2022, Natalie co-taught a Upaya haiku workshop on Zoom where she read Diane di Prima’s haiku. We continue to know Roshi Joan Halifax and the Upaya community in virtual ways unimaginable two years ago. Our gratitude is boundless.

Life – Planting Seeds

The snake plant in the lead photograph was given to my mother Amelia Ernestine by my grandmother Della Elise in 1966 when our family moved from Georgia to Pennsylvania. When my mom died in April 2021, my sister Cassandra (named after great Aunt Cassie) and I split the plant in two. One half road tripped back to Minnesota with me; I named her Georgia. The other half my sister named Belvedere; she put down roots in an antique teapot on Cassandra’s kitchen window sill in Pennsylvania.

Georgia’s leaves stand tall against our north facing windows. She has seen some things, heard some things, traveled around the country. She is rooted to our family and has lived a long and joyful life. Twenty, thirty, forty years moves at light speed. We don’t know when our time will arrive. On my deathbed, I want to say I loved my life with its pitfalls and craters. I dig deep and look to the ancestors to show me the way.

-Written the weekend of the Taurus New Moon in a Partial Solar Eclipse, April 2022

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Baby Eagle 5, fledgling eagle in nest, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2009 by SkyWire7. All rights reserved.

feathers fly above
eagles on Summer Solstice
learn to leave the nest

Post Script: It’s Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year in this part of the world. We didn’t have a formal Summer Solstice celebration this year. But on Friday, we walked a few blocks down the street from the inlet where our friends live and past Murphy the ferocious dog (Guardian at the Gate) to view this eagle’s nest. It does a heart good to see eagles thriving on such a populated lake near a booming city. Seeing a nest of this size and scale is humbling.

You can’t quite make it out, but there’s another baby eagle (a fledgling or eaglet) to the right, hiding behind a clump of leaves. We could see its ruffled feathers through the binoculars. (Did you know a group of eagles is called an aerie or convocation?) Liz got a few more great shots (link at photo above). Her Canon point-and-shoot has a closer telephoto than mine.

It’s also Father’s Day. And yesterday we walked for hours around the Stone Arch Festival of Arts on the Mississippi River across from the famous Gold Medal sign. All in all, a good weekend to kick off the beginning of Summer. Happy Father’s Day to Jim and to my brothers who are good fathers. Also to my Northern and Southern fathers — thank you for everything you have taught me. I’m thinking about you today.

Eagle’s Nest & Baby, Eagle’s Nest Wide Angle, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

-posted on red Ravine, Father’s Day, Summer Solstice, Sunday, June 21st, 2009

-related to posts: haiku 2 (one-a-day), 15 Hours, 36 Minutes Of Light, Diamonds & Light (Summer Solstice)

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The last feather I saw was a curved downy fluff next to Mr. StripeyPants on the bed. The two comforters are filled with the down of the goose. One is cinnamon, new and soft and fresh. The other, faded pink, old and wearing thin. We have patched the mauve one several times. But alas, there is another tiny hole somewhere. And once in a while, we see a feather or two dropped on carpet, or stuck in the thread of the flannel sheets.

I don’t have my feathers out since I moved in with Liz. With 3 cats, it’s impossible. They love to grab them between their teeth, carry them around like a mouse, shake their heads, munch a little, and drop them near their food bowls. I used to have a circle of feathers on my altar in my old apartment. I would fill a blue glass antique bottle with sand I collected from the Atlantic or Pacific, and push the hollow tips of the feathers down into sand crystals, making a semi-circle of color.

I have found owl feathers before on walks through the woods. The 2 prize feathers are Bald Eagle, given to me by an explorer friend who kayaked in the Northwestern corner of Washington State. One is white, a tail feather. I had never seen one that close before she gifted me with it. She had gotten permission from one of the Native American tribes she was visiting to pick a few up from the forest floor. She said she saw hundreds of eagles flying the area on that kayak trip.

I keep thinking of the feathers flying from the mouth of the hawk in the Galway Kinnell poem when the hawk eats the jay. And I remember one of our readers talking about seeing the actual act, hawk devouring jay, last month on a walk through the city. The closest I have come to seeing a bird of prey hunt, is an osprey on the finger of Long Lake up in the Boundary Waters. I was on a week canoe trip and my two friends had gone off hiking for the day. I stayed behind on a gravel bar beach, slipped my journal out of the waterproof covering, and wrote.

I looked up from a line to see an osprey dive under the water like a rocket, and shoot back up to the sky with a fish in her talons. I will never forget that sight. What comes naturally to her is my treasure. I watched her on the lake for what must have been 30 minutes. Then she flew off into the distance. I didn’t see her again. Some days I long for the solitude of a trip like that, to be away from civilization as we know it, on bodies of water or untrampled earth. Something about the water though, and there is a lot of it here.

Water. Fluid. And in Winter, firm.

It’s warmer this morning, rising 6 degrees since I arose from sleep. It’s supposed to reach above freezing. Then drop again later in the week. I don’t see as many feathers in Winter as I do in the Fall and Spring. Summer is best for feather hunting.

The coolest feathers I have ever seen are from the Great Grey Owls that dropped from Canada to the area around Duluth a few years ago. Liz and I drove up (along with hundreds of other birders) just to get a glimpse of the wide-faced raptors. We must have seen 30 – 40 of them that weekend, perched in elms and birch, swooping low to the ground, the way they hunt, and, sadly, one deceased in the middle of the road.

It was still warm, had been hit by a pick-up truck minutes before. We stopped to offer prayers, and a closer look at her wings, talons, and feathers. We’ll never be that close to a Great Grey again.

I read later that the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota had a ton of calls about Great Greys that year. They had been hit by cars when they were hunting low across country roads. And then, just as quickly, they were gone. Back to Canada. I don’t think they’ve ever traveled this far South again.

-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, February 16th, 2008

-related to Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – LIGHT AS A FEATHER

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