An Old Hand at Birding

I face the abyss. I am about to turn 70. How is that possible? 70. Seventy?

I would be lying if I said 70 is just a number – it is a number, but one with great meaning; I am at the end lap of life’s race. I can’t pretend that is not so. 70! Time has sped up so that a blink now seems to be the time a year takes, yet I am somewhat slowed. I experience faster and slower simultaneously. I do not put in eight to 10 hours of writing work a day; I am down to three or four.

I still feel I haven’t done all of the things I want to do and I do worry I will not have the time to do them.

The abyss is opening. I see its edges not so far away.

These thoughts weighed heavily on me as my wife the Beautiful AP and I headed for Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge for our weekly South Shore Audubon Society’s Sunday bird walk. Last week we were at the Hempstead Lake State Park. I do love these bird walks.

If you have never been to the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge take a trip there. It is a fascinating ocean of nature on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, with lakes and bays and birds galore. You also have magnificent views of Manhattan off in the distance. Raw nature entangled in civilization.

We met in the parking lot. There were about 20 of us, led by Joe our birding expert. I noticed there were some new folks at this walk – there are always a few new folks each week – plus the regulars, a truly nice group of people.

At 9 a.m. Joe led us into the park. There is a single path that goes around what used to be a fresh-water lake that has now become salt ever since tropical storm Sandy smashed through the barrier that had kept the salt marsh on its side of the path and the lake on the other.

Today we would be able to walk the one and a half miles around the lake. Estimates are the lake will again be fresh water in about 20 years. Will I see that?

As we walked I noticed her, an older woman, far older than my approaching 70, who would stop and sit every hundred yards or so. There are benches all the around the lake so people can sit and watch the birds on the water, on the marsh grass, in the air and in the branches of the trees.

She sat and eyed everything through her binoculars. As we progressed along the path, I noticed something. This woman’s eyes were sharp. She’d pick out birds none of the rest of us could see and alert us to where they were.

The great fish-devouring ospreys have returned to the Northeast and use the nesting sites set up to protect them from the perils of manmade havoc in their habitat. But the ospreys were not in their nests as we walked; they were in and around the marshlands, basically unnoticeable as they blended with their environment – but she could find them and point out exactly where these beautiful birds were hunting for Sunday brunch. The osprey’s diet is strictly fish and several she had sighted were eating such fish.

She also walked with a great gait, walking stick in hand, from one bench to another bench where she would scour the water-scape and alert us to the unseen birds.

I watched her for the entire 1.5 miles. She had a zest for birding. She had a fine sense of humor (anyone who laughs at my witty remarks has a fine sense of humor) and she knew her birds. She obviously enjoys her life.

Maybe the abyss is not so abysmal? Maybe I should just do the things I want to do and not worry so much about time? Maybe 70 is just a number – one that leads to other numbers. Maybe it isn’t the end of it all.  Maybe, just maybe, seeing this sharp, vibrant person who sees 70 distantly in her rearview mirror, is helping me see 70 through my windshield in a better light.

[Read Frank Scoblete’s books I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack, I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps and Confessions of a Wayward Catholic! All available from Amazon.com, on Kindle and electronic media, at Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores.]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*