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The Heart of the Bay

Nobody owns the sky or the trees.
Nobody owns the hearts of birds.
Still, being human and partial therefore to my own
though not resentful of others fashioning theirs—

I’ll come tomorrow, I believe, quite early.
– Mary Oliver, Winter and the Nuthatch

Oliver writes of building trust with a nuthatch that eventually learns to eat out of her hand. One morning she arrives later than other mornings only to find her nuthatch friend eating from another person’s hand. And thus she resolves to arrive earlier the next morning. I’ve felt this myself, not with birds in the hand so much as places of solitude.

Early Spring is still a time of hard frosts and temperature swings. Maple syrup weather – when the sap flows and gathers in buckets around Maple trees throughout the region. But not here. Cape Cod is more temperate, not subject to the extremes that draw the sap out. And then there’s the trees themselves, which seem to prefer the other side of the bridges. No, here we have a different sap drawn out in the early mornings. And I’m drawn to the light and the chorus.

Buzzards Bay, well before the dawn, is awash in deep blues and burnt orange and the calls of thousands of Eider Ducks off in the distance. They have a lot to say to each other. It must be breeding season for these migratory birds. They didn’t pay much attention to the stranger on land, and I let them alone in their banter and flirting. The chorus felt altogether different from the bay in warmer months, when outboard engines of fishermen roaring off to favorite holes pierce the silence. Eiders quickly become white noise as I refocus on the task at hand.

I crunched across a deep frost, leaving footprints in the grass on my walk to the shoreline. Low tide drew me out further into the bay, right to the waters edge quietly lapping in quiet surges like a heart beat. The bay is alive in this way. Alive in its vibrant, nutrient-rich, welcoming way. It pulls at me as it pulls at the Eider ducks, down from northern regions for their version of Spring Break. I suppose I am as well, looking for a change of scenery from New Hampshire to Buzzards Bay. For a return to salt water reflections and big skies.

The chorus of Eiders ends with the sun breaking the horizon. Mating time gives way to feeding time. I leave the shoreline myself, for I’m not adorned in the down of a duck and the morning chills me in lingering too long. Hot coffee and inadequate words await me, with the glow of the morning alive in my mind.

Buzzards Bay

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