Springtime, and we just finished our move back to Cambridge. Jake and I winter in the Blue Hills. We’re not migratory creatures, but we tell our friends we need serious hibernation, clean away from humans. Truth is, we leave just so we can make a splashy return. Fresh Pond folk make such a fuss. If we hung here 365, who would notice?
Last year we nested near the top of a tall tree, far from any trail. I like this year’s spot better. Lower down, less windy, where the trunk splits into a sturdy fork. It took Jake less than a day to form the nest. And we’re just a head turn off the main path. Might as well make viewing easy.
From my perch atop our hatchlings, I peer down the rutted ice. From dawn to dusk, citizens stand and watch, yellow parka sentinels, brilliant against spring’s gritty snow. They press flint black binoculars and cameras to their faces. They contemplate me in solemn awe, point my way and exclaim in hushed voices, “The owls have returned.” Their reverence is ridiculous in this noisy spot, what with the highway close at hand, and a pile driver drilling apartment building foundations only a few hundred feet away. As if city noise disappears the moment they step off the concrete sidewalk and merge with this parcel of curated nature; as if fixing us with their eyeballs and gear all day is not disturbance enough.
Fresh Pond is an easy place to live: no predators, easy prey. But mostly, we love the humans. All except that photographer with the zoom lens so powerful it singes my feathers. He hangs a ring of photos from his tripod; photos of me that he sells to people too rushed to give me any real time. Don’t I deserve a commission? If not currency, at least a rabbit, or a few rodents. I’m thinking of flying over to that lawyer’s office on Concord Avenue. Cambridge is full of lawyers. Surely one will see the justice in my cause.
Calm down Mildred, I tell myself when the photographer ruffles my feathers. That man can’t give you anything you need, and Jake already gives you everything you want. I fix a fierce gaze on the tripod man. I stare at his heart pumping excitement as he snaps close up after close up, clueless to the fact that I can hold still for minutes on end. One image will prove indecipherable from the next.
When I’m certain that his blood pressure’s raging and he’s clicked so many prize images that I’ve singed his soul, I make a finale move. I turn my head, quick, confident, ninety degrees to the west. The crowd gasps. Loud enough to drown out the pounding pile driver. Humans are so easily amused. Little wonder they consider me wise.