I like nature’s outsiders. Our regular cohort of crows, of course, along with the lordly raven that lives deeper in the woods up the hill. And also the coyotes my neighbors revile. But then my neighbors — God forgive my saying so — revile many things I hold dear.
The last two mornings I heard a loon’s call just after dawn, then this morning walking the dogs along the river, Carole & I saw a pair of loons — a nesting pair we think — on the river right across from our house. When the male noticed us he took of toward the south, soon to be followed by the female; they made a broad turn over the highway bridge and headed back north toward the outflow pond from the dam, where they are probably nesting. I’d heard the call in previous years but never seen one here in South Colton, let alone a pair. Loons are an indicator species — they don’t do well in polluted water — so seeing them makes me happy for our local space. It means the world hasn’t ended yet.
The robins were a little surprised this morning — as were we all — to wake to a steady snowfall. We watched them grubbing in the roadside gravel as I drove Carole to work to meet her colleague for a trip to the airport and thence to Washington DC, where they are preparing an exhibition of Inuit art for the Canadian Embassy in the fall. One of the robins nearly flew into the windshield, but got caught in the slipstream and whooshed to safety, to everyone’s relief. And though I didn’t see or hear it — I was sleeping – Carole said that at dawn, while we were still in bed, a dark shape of a bird flew by our bedroom window screeching. Probably a kingfisher, though possibly a pileated woodpecker, she only caught a glimpse. When we walk the dogs along the Morgan Road, back in the woods along the river, we see the huge holes the pileateds hammer into old trees, piles of rough wood chips on the ground. Then there are the crows, which we both love, strutting around in the road and pecking at squashed chipmunks, etc. — so intent you have to hit the horn to get them to rise from their breakfasts. Have you ever noticed that crows have shoulders? Watch one walk, shoulders flexing beneath glossy blue-black feathers.
I like teaching, even after nearly thirty years. I love teaching. But I’m always happy when the end of the spring term rolls around and the students and I can take a break from each other. I’m giving an exam in my Understanding Vietnam course tomorrow, then I’ll have several days of heavy grading, then the wide open spaces. It looks like I won’t be returning to Vietnam until winter, so I have no serious travel plans this summer. I’m hoping to finish a book of poems I’ve been puttering around with for way too long and to revise a couple of short stories I wrote last year and get them out for editors to look at. And there are some areas of our yard that need restoration, so I’ll have the shovel in my hands quite a bit as soon at the weather improves a bit — after several nice days, we woke to snow this morning. Snow. Yesterday, black flies, today snow.
In winter the crows congregate deep in the woods, doing their philosophy presumably, and we only see them high in the sky, circling in large groups. Now that the snow is melting we see them solo on the tops of white pines and cedars scouting territory for the breeding season. Sometimes one crow will follow us as we walk the dogs, arcing from one treetop to the next along the road. This morning we also saw the first returning Canada Goose. One almost never sees them by themselves, but this guy was flying north and squawking his head off. Having arrived early, he must have been lonely and looking for company. It won’t be long before they have returned in their numbers to our bend of the river, where they nest on the sandbar and get handouts of corn from Betty, who lives across the water from us.