“Whoa,” says Mother. “If you find a gate closed, what are you supposed to do?”
“Close it,” says Annie.
“But Mama, you and Dad and Granny have to come through,” says Drake.
True. And we do.
We used to take the main trail, more like a road a jeep might use. The BLM folks maintain it and display signs that we are really walking through private property on our way to BLM land. This is an access road and we are warned to stay on it. But as you walk along you see side trails, made by cattle, then warn by dirt bicycles, deer, horses, other wild critters and hikers, with and without dogs. The main road takes 30 or more minutes to wind up and over, around and down, to the ponds. A metal plank, balanced between granite, secure enough for bikes, crosses the creek. Today, though, we discover a side trail, told to us by a friend, and within 10 minutes we are unloading fishing gear.
As a young woman I fished many a pier, pond, river, and the sea. But now, I prefer to watch the birds, people and fish, through my binoculars, and the catches are with the camera.
As we approach the ponds I teach the grand kids to walk silently up over the bank. They are excited and find the discipline difficult. “Keep your eyes open and your ears alert. You never know what you will see and hear around these ponds.” They try.
Across the pond, perches a Great Egret a top an Oak on the cliff. As we move to the picnic table, the bird takes flight. We are too close for comfort.
I follow the white bird with my camera. Click, click and click again.
“Good,” my son says. “The competition is gone.” I laugh. Today an Egret, other days the Great Blue Heron is fishing along the edges of the pond. Sometimes the Black-belted Kingfisher squawks noisily at us. I imagine he is yelling, “What are you doing here? I’m not done eating yet?” Or the Green-backed Heron that is barely seen unless you know to look carefully in the backdrop of the dirt, algae, and rocks, a perfect blend at the edge of the pond. It stays longer than the other birds, a little braver because camouflage is safety, as long as we are on this side of the pond. He waits for fish or frog.
“Catch and release” is the standard my son teaches his children. “The fish will be here when we return kids,” he explains. I admit to feeling queasy. It must hurt to be hooked, then hung in the air while photos are being taken to prove prowess, then finally, a toss and you are surrounded by blessed water, reprieve. You are not lunch, this time. Unless Great Blue Heron captures you and with one gulp you are gone. My son and GBH, competitors: one for fun, the other for survival. Do the fish have consciousness? No way to know. Deep in my heart I feel they do. I say nothing. Just snap my pictures while I enjoy the beauty of old oaks, wildlife, the land and my family.
Azure deep sky
Treetops bereft of leaves
Wings a flurry