Jun 14 2012
We met only once, a long time ago. I never learned her name, but she said she was a city girl. On her first night in the mountains, sleep came slowly, and she rose early. I don’t know if it was the novelty of camping in a lakeside cabin or just a lumpy mattress, but she was up before the sun, while tendrils of mist were still rising from the glass‑smooth surface of the lake. She pulled a sweater over her PJs — it’s chilly in the hills at dawn, even in midsummer — and dashed out, pausing only to catch the screen door before it slammed shut. Then she sprinted for the shoreline.
I was there before her, however. In fact, I’d already been waiting for half an hour, camera in hand, hoping to chronicle the coming of the new day. The girl — a young woman, really, close to my own age — was beside herself with anxious anticipation, and her excitement mounted steadily as unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells constantly assailed her senses. The smoky skeins of mist over the water. The sweet perfume of balsam. The yodel of a distant loon. All of these were entirely new to her. We exchanged shy hellos, but before long we were chatting away in hushed voices, so as not to miss any note in the chorus of birdsong that grew stronger with every passing minute.
The girl was full of questions, and most of these had something to do with the swelling dawn chorus. Did I know what bird that was? I did. And that one? Yes, that one, too. And so it went, on and on, as new voices joined the choir and others left, till the sun had risen well above the trees and the smell of frying bacon issued from the little cabin kitchen. That’s when we parted company. The girl went off to her breakfast. I resumed my photographic vigil.
It wasn’t the first time I’d played the role of docent in the gallery of the woods. Having grown up in the company of trees, and having long sought to make the acquaintance of the birds who live in and around them, I was on speaking terms with many of the woodland choristers. But what had become second nature to me must have appeared almost a black art to the city girl. Where she heard only a cacophony of chirps and trills and whistles, I heard individual voices, each one as distinctive as it was distinct.
How about you? How well do you know the flighty creatures who come and go along the margins of the water? And if you’re not yet on first name terms with them, why not spend a few minutes with me while I make some introductions?
Ready? Then let’s begin… Read more…
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