I began the week with grand plans to go discover and explore some new areas of nature beyond my favorite spot, Berlin Pond. That didn't quite work. As I mentioned in my last post, I've been nursing a back injury for the better part of three months and while I had hoped this week would provide some respite, my injury did limit my ability to travel too far from home. As a result, I spent the majority of my time up at Berlin Pond.
While initially disappointed to not be able to explore beyond my favorite spot, the fact is Berlin Pond is an extraordinary natural resources and is quite literally known throughout the nation for its diversity of bird species. This week turned into what I've called my "Week of Firsts", in which I've seen several species for the first time this season and at least four species for the first time ever. Among my first sightings of the season were several Song Sparrows, Tree Swallows, a Hermit Thrush, a Downy Woodpecker, and a Belted Kingfisher. And outside the bird kingdom, I saw a pretty adorable Muskrat feeding on early spring greenery on pond's edge. Every day, I experienced a first sighting of a bird species, a mammal or an early spring wildflower.
While my wife, Joanne, and I are both teachers, we work in separate school districts with different Spring Break schedules. As a result, I experienced these springtime discoveries by myself, though I eagerly shared the stories and my accompanying photos with her. Still, telling the story and sharing the experiences together just isn’t the same thing. I was eager to go to Berlin Pond with her today to show her some of the sights and sounds I'd experienced throughout the week.
But, sometimes the best-laid plans aren't the best-laid plans. Early this afternoon, I read a blog post from field biologist Bryan Pfeiffer, alerting his readers to the presence of a Snowy Owl in East Montpelier. There has been an irruption of these majestic Arctic creatures to Vermont this winter and while I had heard of many sightings throughout the state, I had not had the opportunity to view one myself. I was eager to do so and even more eager to be able to do so with Joanne.
We hopped in the car and away we went. As we drove up the road where the Snowy Owl had been reported, I told Joanne we should scan the tops of the telephone poles. As we crested the hill about to turn a corner, Joanne said, "Well, there's something white on top of that telephone pole!" Sure enough, there was our Snowy Owl. That's not exactly how I responded, but that's beside the point. There he sat with not a seeming care in the world, slowly turning his head observing all around him. I was simply awestruck to witness such a beautiful creature and to do so with Joanne. We observed him and I photographed him for nearly an hour.
As I peered through my viewfinder I hoped for and waited for that moment when I might be able to focus directly on his eyes. For the longest time, he turned his head, first this way, then that, but rarely looked in my direction. Coupled with the tricky light of the cloudy afternoon and the somewhat steep angle from which I was photographing, I was pretty convinced I wouldn't get "that shot."
Then it happened.
As the clouds shifted and the light changed, I checked and adjusted my camera settings and continued my watch. Suddenly, he shifted his head and eyes downward and I found myself staring directly into his eyes. I calmly pressed the shutter for what was probably a span of five to seven seconds but felt gratifyingly longer than that. For those seconds, I felt some connection to this beautiful creature, a creature I had so wanted to see but that I had convinced myself I would not, at least not this winter. As quickly as he looked at me, he looked away, and a short time later Joanne and I left him to himself. As I returned to the car Joanne and I both smiled broadly not only for the experience but also for the joy of sharing it together.
If you've read this far and if you have read my previous writings, you know that I derive great joy from witnessing and experiencing the beauty of our natural world. At the very least, I find witnessing and experiencing nature aesthetically pleasing and entertaining. At its best, as today, it feels spiritual. In most all cases, it brings me great joy.
I want to pose a question to you and I truly hope you will leave a comment in response. It is simple.
What brings you joy? In this complicated world we live it is all too often too easy to lose sight of the joy in our lives. Sometimes we get so busy being busy that we don't recognize all that there is that might bring joy into our lives. So, what does it for you? Do you struggle to know what brings you joy or is joy readily apparent to you in your life?
Please don't lose sight of joy. We can find it and experience if we make ourselves available to do so.
Now, if you've read this far, please share a comment below.