Thursday, July 28, 2011

Just Watch What Happens

I sit high on a hill, overlooking Cook Inlet in Ninilchik, Alaska. And I'm not happy. There's nothing to see.

I wanted to camp down on the beach, right next to the water's edge, where thousands of people converge tomorrow to  dig for gigantic razor clams. There'll be a negative tide, exposing clam beds normally out of  people's reach. And I want to watch the action. I've been told it's bizarre.

But a winter storm washed the campground out to sea.  So we park instead up in this place, high on a heavily forested cliff, barely overlooking the action. Hrumpf.

From my campsite, I can see down the hill on one side, to an old Russian village, where girls and women still wear long colorful dresses and the men all wear beards.  I can't see them because I'm too far away, but I know they are there. If I crane my neck and look out across the water, I see Mt. Redoubt and her sister volcano Iliamma, both wearing their snow-white caps. 

And if I walk over to the next campsite, balance near the hillside's edge and whistle Yankee Doodle, then maybe I'll be able to see the clammers tomorrow. Barely. A lot of trouble. There's nothing to see up here. So I'm not happy.

I walk back to our campsite, grab my book and plop at the picnic table, basically looking at the tops of a lot of trees climbing up from far below. What I really want to be looking are the waves on Cook Inlet.

Then a commotion catches my eye. Just ahead. Look! LOOK! I can't believe what I'm seeing.  An American Bald Eagle has just deposited her very large baby in a tree top not 20 feet from my face. Twenty feet! A baby bald eagle. Sitting on the top of a tee. Looking back at me. Mom flies away. Baby stays put. AND STARES AT ME!
What do I do? Stare back.

And holler for Allen who takes our picture with the baby in the background. Then, I sit at the picnic table and babysit,  for 20 minutes. My life merges with this baby's. I'm thrilled, amazed and amused at what I'm seeing. But he's, well, sort of bored. I watch as he picks his feet. Looks all around. Cleans under his left wing; preens his tail. Shudders. Scratches his head. And picks his feet some more. But he stays there.

And I'm guessing mom TOLD him to stay put, while she goes fishing. Yum. He's waiting for lunch.

So I stay put, to watch for mom to come back. But I, too, get bored, just looking at a bird doing basically nothing. So I begin to read.

I hear a commotion.

When I look up, my baby is gone. I see a flurry of feathers -- mom's  black and white mingling with baby's brown and white -- and they're gone.

What a sight. What a memory. There's so much to see high up on this wonderful hill.

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