The Thaw

So: today, after I wrote out some questions and set up interviews with a couple of folks in the Spring Field Ornithology class, I spent the morning working on a copy-edit of the latest BirdScope, the CLO's quarterly tabloid publication, a job which was pleasantly mindless on one hand and really interesting on the other (seeing as how I got to read all the stuff in the upcoming issue). And then all work stopped as Charles ran into the lounge and announced that a Pintail had landed on the pond.

Mia and I immeidately grabbed our binoculars and hustled down to the observation tower, where there was indeed a handsome, sleek, and delicately barred Northern Pintail paddling furiously about in apparently pursuit of one of the Mallard drakes. When the Mallard outdistanced it, the Pintail began moving closer to one of the local Hooded Mergansers, which allowed me to snap a shot of what may be two of the most beautiful birds in America at the same time:

I ran out for lunch at the mall's cheap Thai joint that has a vibe pleasantly redolent of the long-lost and -lamented Golden Dragon in Chapel Hill. (And while I was at the mall I snagged a copy of DC's 2009 revamp of Unknown Soldier for $4.85 at the Border's that's going out of business.)

Upon returning to the CLO, I noticed that the clouds were starting to break up. As a result, I decided it was time to move from the sunny-but-glare-intensive Sapsucker Lounge, where I've been holed up for the last two weeks, to a somewhat shadier spot in the Adelson Library, which also has the advantage of being a bit quieter than the lounge AND has an alcove that overlooks the seed feeders near the CLO's entrance.

The library closes at 4:00, but I stuck around for another hour or so to finish up a bit of writing, then locked up and headed out into an absolutely lovely afternoon. The sun has already started staying out late here in Ithaca, and it was still well above the yardarm, shining off the pond and lighting up the snowy patches. In one of the marshy pools in front of the Lab, the water was almost bursting with life, flexing its surface whenever something frozen in the depths suddenly gave way to liquid, or whenever the breeze riffled the surface. The calls of blackbirds and chickadees echoed around Sapsucker Woods, as they have since I arrived here, but as I turned from my momentary fascination with the pool's motion, my own motion was arrested by the sight of something atop one of the lampposts in the parking lot:

100_3864.JPGThat's "Whitey," as I call the young adult Red-tailed Hawk who's been hanging around the Lab for the last few weeks. Most eastern red-tails have a big white chest, but there's usually a fairly noticeable belly-band of dark streaks below it; not so on Whitey, whose underside has only a few dark speckles. I've seen him before, but never this close. He remained in place while I and several other workers and visitors came wandering through the parking lot; indeed, even when the Cornell shuttle bus pulled up to its stop not thirty feet from his perch, he remained placidly in place, allowing me to keep snapping photo after photo. Not until I had passed him, walked across the boardwalk to the employee parking lot, and opened my car door did he launch himself into the air, gliding gracefully up to a perch near the trunk of a tree.

And at that point, standing in the brisk late-winter/early-spring wind, staring across the parking lot at the dim silhouette of the hawk on the tree, I realized something. It came bubbling up from inside me at an unexpected intensity, something I simply hadn't felt in a very long time, and I was only a little bit surprised to discover that my eyes were welling up with tears.

I don't know when it happened, exactly, but now that I was on the edge of sobbing, I could tell that my life had been frozen over for some time. I've been struggling under that ice, unable to breathe, but coming up from time to time to crack through the thin patches and gulp a lungful of air. There have been times when I couldn't crack it myself, though, and I can only count my blessings that I have had friends and family members who were willing to help me break through and grab that necessary, desperate gasp. Ian and Dixon have never stopped helping me, sometimes just by being the awesome kids they are, sometimes by doing something more spectacular, like getting into college and turning into independent thinkers.

And Kelly? She has always been standing on that ice, axe in hand, ready to cut through to me. Because of her, I have been able to get relief from what has sometimes been a hard, cold, and crushing time.

But today, standing in the sun in the shadow of tree and hawk and cloud, I felt no need for relief. My eyes were tearing up because there was nothing to be relieved about. I was happy.

The ice on the water has given way, and spring is coming at long last.

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on March 29, 2011 11:07 PM.

Working at the CLO was the previous entry in this blog.

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