Welcoming a New Day
by Meg Mitchell
Welcoming a new day as the sun rises, I enter a world few people know. Moving smoothly through the water, everything seems to fall into place.
We scullers row backwards, having no coxswain to guide us. We must look back every few strokes to avoid hitting buoys, other boats or debris upon the water.
On this cool, clear morning, as I warm up on College Creek, I see what appears to be a great blue heron silhouetted on a branch of a tree, high over the water. Yet this bird is different. As I draw closer, I think it cant be. Blue herons dont have wings that billow out when sitting on a branch. Their wings wrap closely to the body. Not wishing to disturb him but still curious, I check my shell and row slowly and silently to where he sits.
Pulling nearer, I see that it is indeed a great blue heron, spreading his wide wings to the sun, obviously enjoying its warmth. At this early hour, he is preparing his toilette for the day. Soon he will fly down to the shoreline and pick his way slowly along the edge of the shore to catch fish and frogs for his breakfast.
Another time, the blue heron prompted me to write a poem describing the water games that we play as I row:
Turning my head to scan the shore while sculling the creek, I sense him
Bandit of my concentration, the Blue Heron.
His grayness melts into the brown-ness of the long-fallen tree
As wooden-like, he feeds under its bend.
At times he perches solemnly high, close to the top of a tree.
This morning he stands knee-deep in the water, actively spearing his prey.
Wherever the place, I find him, its an empathy we share.
Disturbed, he flies and I follow, sculling close to where he alights.
Aware of my presence, he turns his head slightly,
As if to say, Go away.
Extending his neck, he unfolds his wings,
Lifting off from his long-stemmed legs.
Rapidly circling high, straight-as-an-arrow, in flapping flight,
Knifing the creek in two, scolding me as he leaves,
Yet loving the intrusion, I know.
My one-dimensional bird, the Blue Heron,
My special, solitary friend.
Continuing on my way to the end of the creek, where the green branches of the trees shade the waters and fallen trees fuel imagination, I see witch's fingers reaching out and a huge spider-like creature standing at the edge of the shore. It is here that I usually see the green egret. Today it is the great egret, a large, all-white heron with a yellow bill and black legs. Like the great blue, it feeds alone, stalking fish, frogs and snakes in shallow water.
Slowly executing what we scullers call a river turn, I head back up the creek, turning into a smaller lagoon, Mallard Hollow, a name I have given it because of the large number of ducks residing there. I have another poem, celebrating the beauty of this spot.
It's a solitary sound - romph, kalonk, romph, kalonk -
The sound of my oars in the oarlocks as I glide into the quiet lagoon.
For it's here that each morning we meet, me and my dozens of friends.
They offer a medley of colors to the blanched, weathered wood of the long-fallen tree.
They've chosen the best in the creek for their home,
Stretching halfway across, arching high,
Giving space for each to perch.
Flapping their wings, swishing their tails,
Preening, stretching, swimming in groups for their breakfast,
Back to the tree for their naps,
Then on with their daily routine,
Tolerating my quiet intrusion,
Unaware of the gift that they bring,
This oneness with nature each morn.
Leaving Mallard Hollow, I row under the footbridge, out onto the Severn River, heading toward the Bay. As I came close to the tall green marker, the home of a pair of ospreys, I hear their frantic, sharp, steady peeps. Its late June and their peeps tell me that their young have hatched. Now the father must work twice as hard to feed his family.
An hour later after a smooth row up the river, I pull up to the dock, totally refreshed. There is no better way to begin the day.