ordinary wigeons



A couple days ago I went for a walk around one of our little urban lakes. I am trying to walk more as after six months of either overuse injury or hard impact injury, walking seems the only reasonable exercise for the moment. And this locale was a nice change from the trail on which I have walked a lot these past weeks.

As it’s been raining a lot, in the blueberry fields across from the lake there were little puddles everywhere and pairs of ducks were investigating each one. Some of the puddles were in the middle of the path and required a bit of navigation in order to keep dry feet.  Along the path, headed in the direction opposite from me was an older gentleman with a pair of binoculars hanging around his neck—clearly a birdwatcher. As we passed each other I asked, “Seen anything interesting?”

His response, “I’ve seen lots that’s interesting, but nothing out of the ordinary.”

Then, as if to appease me, he informed me of about thirty wigeons snacking in the flooded blueberry patch further on.

But I loved his first response, because it made me think. Too often I think that only something out of the ordinary can be something interesting, and I go off seeking it hither and thither. If there’s anything I’ve started to learn from my regular walks on my neighborhood trail (the one I didn’t have to drive to before I could drive again), it’s that the ordinary can be interesting if I only pay attention to it. One week the willow branches are bare. A few days later the fuzzy pussy willow pods poke their heads out. A few more days after that and the pods have expanded and put out their yellow pollen fluffs.

One day there’s only one cherry tree thinking about blooming and a couple days later she’s convinced a couple more. Nothing earth shattering. Nature does this every year, but so often I’m too busy and not paying attention.

About the time we left Switzerland to move back here, I felt like I was finally slowing down enough to enjoy Nature as an ongoing show. The hawk soaring to look for a mouse. The wheat that was green yesterday turning golden today. I forget so quickly. The bird watching man reminded me.


a seat to watch the show


mallards and wigeons


this is a wigeon feather

Salmon Migration

Last week Zarli and I visited the Salmon Hatchery in Issaquah and were treated with seeing the first returns of this year’s Chinook Salmon run. In the video you can see them jumping, but less well visible are the dozens of fish just hanging out in the water below the falls gathering strength for their turn.

We were a little discouraged at the lack of progress for these particular salmon until we got to join a tour and learn about how the hatchery manages the runs in order to promote the best possible conditions for spawning. It’s better in the long haul for the salmon to remain in the well oxygenated creek jumping vainly than to go up the hatchery ladder too soon and hang out too long in the less oxygenated tank. It was very interesting and exciting to get splashed by strong salmon hopping up the ladder.

But being around creatures that struggle so hard to go upstream just to spawn and die makes one philosophical, if one is of a philosophical bent, and it made me think of a poem I wrote a few years ago.

Falling and golden, the leaves and the light
As streaming below, silver streaks, bright.
The flick of a fin on a red taillight
And we swerve to join the flow.
Upstream with the crowd up 405
We’re worn and weary but still alive
Called by instinct, driven by drive
To pass on what we know.
We swam in the deep, in the blue, crazy sea
Gorging ourselves on modernity
When somewhere inside us rang mystery
and we knew it was time to go.
We each find the road that smells of our birth
Of the very first time we swam on earth
Aching to know in the end it was worth
This arduous journey home.
At night in our houses, we lie in the sand
Dreaming of everything else we had planned
And dying beginning to understand
The delicate seeds we sow.

Lilies and Windows

Spring was late but it has now finally arrived. The Lily-of-the-Valley flowers – the muguets – are finally showing out of the ground and their tiny bells are turning white. On May Day, when people were out on the French roadsides selling a meagre bouquet for 3 euros, they were like premature babes, snatched from their beds before their time. I was tempted to stop and buy some just for the love of the traditional, but looking at them I knew that they would have no perfume, which is the whole point behind Lilies-of-the-Valley. So I didn’t stop. But today, when I went to get the mail, I stooped down to the one that’s finally gotten brave enough to bloom despite the chilly weather and was rewarded with the faintest hint of that delicious odor of spring. I was tempted to pick it and bring it inside, my own bouquet, ten days late and 3 euros cheaper, but it seemed kind of unfair. So it’s still blooming out there, and I’ll stoop to sniff again when I get the mail tomorrow.

In other news, today we visited the town of Besancon, which has a lovely old town built on an oxbow of the Doubs river, which reportedly was first scoped out as a good spot by Julius Caesar way back when. Then Louis XIV had a massive fort built there to protect the city. The fort now holds a bunch of museums and a small zoo with monkeys galore. The girls visited the museums and the boys and their parents visited the animals. Then on the way back down we saw this:

Maybe someday, in my dreamland, I will build a house and it will have a window like this one.