I’ve been working for a while on some stories about a girl named Alix. Back in August, Alix did something embarrassing. It wasn’t something terrible, it was kind of funny, really, but she was embarrassed and she didn’t know what to do, so she went into the closet and sat there in the corner for awhile. A long while.
I didn’t have to research how it feels to be embarrassed, because I already knew. I had plenty of experience. I think that’s why both the words and the drawing flowed right out of me.
But a few weeks ago, Alix (to my surprise) found herself about to have an encounter with an injured peregrine falcon. I realized I was going to have to learn some stuff. I went to visit my local raptor rehabilitator* to get educated.
I learned how an injured bird, when first brought in, is swaddled in a blanket while it is weighed, given fluids, and so on. At this time, a visitor, a child even, might be asked to hold the swaddled-up bird for five minutes or so. It’s safe.
I didn’t hold a swaddled-up bird, but an unswaddled falcon sat on my gloved hand and pulled chunks of bird meat from between my gloved fingers:
They say we should write what we know, but it doesn’t have to be something we’ve known forever. We can keep learning.
*(a big p.s.: my local raptor rehabilitator is Rebecca Lessard, founder and director of Wings of Wonder, a raptor sanctuary and rehabilitation center that has rehabilitation and education as its primary mission. For more information on Wings of Wonder, aka W.O.W., go here. I am so grateful to her for generously sharing her time and her expertise. There are a number of places like this around the country. Maybe there is one near you. Search “raptor rehabilitation + (your state).” )
In yards everywhere, fires in fire rings of one kind or another. A fire to look at, people to look at it with, a refreshing bevvie, a bag of chips. Wealth beyond compare.
Just before total darkness, Hazel and I walked down to the boat launch. The snake undulated across the dock in front of us, then kept on undulating, transitioning soundlessly from undulating on sun-warmed wood to undulating across the surface of the cool water. Forgive me for using “undulating” words four times in a row; it’s the only word that describes what we saw there.
Walking up the street in the darkness, the first halo of headlights coming up the other side of the hill illuminated a billion insects. Who knew the air was so thick with bugs? Sometimes the sun slants into your window and lights up every speck of dust hanging there, and you think, how are we unaware of that most of the time? How do we breathe without choking? It was like that, only with bugs. I have wondered how bats find enough insects to eat, echolocation notwithstanding. Now I think they might just be filter feeders, opening their mouths and getting a mouthful. Like whales and krill. Feel free to correct any/all of my wildlife misconceptions.
Here are some useful diagrams that explain how stories are written:
“We were robbed,” said our nephew. “Or, I guess, we were burgled. We don’t actually have anything to steal, but our neighborhood has nice houses in it, so they probably thought we would have some stuff. They took our TV, but we found it a couple of yards over.
“The funniest thing was that they dumped our our change jar, but they only took the quarters, dimes, and nickels. They left the pennies behind.”
I don’t know how big the pile of coins was. I like imagining that it was big. I like imagining the burglar (which seems to me to be an old-fashioned word) slipping from action-mode into the semi-meditative state of separating silver coins from copper. I like thinking it took several minutes. That he forgot for those minutes where he was, that he was in a stranger’s house, taking things. Silver, silver, coppercoppercopper, silver. What about the Canadian coins? Take them or leave them?
“What are you doing?” says the accomplice, you can add in expletives of your choice. “Let’s go!”
“Hold on,” says our burglar. “I’m almost done. I’ll be right there.” Pockets sagging and clinking, he climbs out the window and jumps the short distance to the ground.
Six teen-aged campers and their two leaders awoke in the summer night to water rising around them. They had inadvertently set camp on a tidal flat, at low tide. They had gone to sleep in northern Ontario. Now they were, apparently, in James Bay, which is at the bottom of Hudson Bay, which is part of the Arctic Ocean. In the pitch dark, they scrambled to find their canoes, their food, each other. Most everything had floated away, but they found one canoe. They stood around it in the Arctic Ocean, now waist high. They didn’t know if it would get higher. They didn’t know which direction would lead them to land. Too dark out.They stood around the canoe, holding on to it, waiting for light, waiting for the water to recede. Or get deeper.
They were lucky: the water didn’t get deeper. They were lucky: they found all of the canoes the next day. And no one got hurt, or hypothermic. They didn’t find the wanigan that held their food, but they were at the end of their ten-day trip. So they were lucky about that, too. Michael told the story second-hand — he wasn’t on that trip.
“But didn’t that same thing happen on a trip you were on?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said. It occurred to me that some education in the matter of identifying tidal areas would not go amiss.
Tom, a sailor, had stories of dropping anchor and waking up, to the sound of pots and pans crashing down because the tide had receded and left the boat on a sand bar, tipped over.
Lynne (not me, another one) had a friend who had driven out onto a sand bar off the coast of Maine. It was between the mainland and a nearby island. Lots of people drove to the island when the tide was low. Her friend, though, stopped on the sand bar. He had some things to think about. He fell asleep. When he awoke, he was surrounded by water. The car wouldn’t start. He made it back to land on foot, wading. When the tide lowered again, he was able to start the car and drive it back. But it was never quite the same.
“I don’t have any tide stories,” I said. Michael said it wasn’t too late. Anne didn’t tell any tide stories either, but I think she has some. She’s married to Tom.
Bill hadn’t been able to make it to the dinner where this conversation took place. I told him about it, and how I didn’t have any tide stories.
“There are two main types,” I said. “The water goes up, or the water goes down. Falling asleep before it goes up or down also seems to be a key ingredient.”
He thought about this for a minute.
“You put my underwear in the wash with your red pants,” he said. “That’s kind of a Tide story.”