Yesterday I took myself down to a very small, very private beach down below Shilshole Bay. There were clouds but the sun glistening a line straight to me from the west. I situated myself in the shadow of a pole, a remnant of an old pier from very long ago.
In this very small inlet there are a number of those old posts sticking high up into the air. Normally you cannot walk out to them but a few times a year the tides get extremely low and you can walk out there. Usually these poles are attended to by boat.
Some enviro-artists go out there and hang pots and items that attract a particular bird that uses these posts and articles as their habitat. It is a kind of bird that had been becoming rare to see, but this enviro-art is bringing them back to this small area. I don’t know the species of bird, but I love the story and the pots and things they post and hang out there to attract the birds.
This little inlet is just north of the boat passageway into the Ballard Locks with its salmon runs. And just south of that are what I know as the Eagles’ cliffs. It is the north-western part of Magnolia, a hilly neighborhood and the cliffs are probably 10 stories high. On top of the cliffs are the very tall hemlocks and evergreens that are so familiar here in the Pacific Northwest.
As I stood in the shadow of the pole in the bay, with the sun in the west glistening on the water and two little boys learning to skip rocks with their mom not far away, making those lovely murmuring sounds a young family makes, I saw an eagle up above, over above Puget Sound proper. Then there were 3 – then I saw more. There were maybe 15 birds out above the sound in that slow arc and circling that they do. In time the seagulls and black birds when on with their business and left the 3 eagles to theirs.
One of the things I love most about living out here by The Sound is watching the birds work the wind. They all do it in their own way. In Port Townsend where Uptown ends above Water street, you can often see the seagull hanging out at your eye level, with their wings arched and barely moving as their body hangs in the air, going up a little and down a little but virtually just hanging there 100 or so feet above the ground and only 50 or so feet in front of the cliff. I’ve stood there, just watching this suspended ballet of stillness, this artful dance of staying still, in awe. Being an animal incapable of not thinking, I go from the wonder of their skill to, “what are they thinking? Is this a form of fun? Can there be a purpose to this action? Does a bird need a purpose? Isn’t purpose a man-made concept? What would nature need with a purpose? It’s not a question of purpose in nature…” and that quickly peters out to simply enjoying the wonder and splendor of watching birds surf air. What a world!
But yesterday was the wonder of eagles. Eagles are very large birds but so are falcons and I am not a “birder” in particular. But I can tell the eagles by their size and then the bits of white on them. On this day the sunlight caught their wings in such a way as to show off the white tips of their jagged edges.
I have been watching this for twenty years now, and I always think of it as looking for the “on ramp” to the heavenly express way. The art is to arc and circle wide; very minimal wing movements, just riding the thermal air currents up, and up, slowly in their wide circles, ever going up. The tension of the muscular arc of their wings precisely played works the thermals, lifting them ever upward, like a large, invisible, circular escalator. It is a slow process. Unlike the fearful and the insecure eagles are in no hurry. They must get joy for this process but there is nothing hurried or excited about it. The eagle’s ride the thermals up till I can hardly see them as specks, until the catch the big wave.
The first time I saw this phenomenon I didn’t believe my eyes; I could not believe what I was looking at. There is a place up there where the winds are moving at unbelievably fast rates. When the Eagle hits that Thermal Express way, they are carried like a shot across the sky, even faster than an airplane. I could see what the thrill would be to catch such a wave.
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