On Saturday morning, I woke early. Summer vacation had begun! It was about 4:30, my regular school-day rising time, and coming downstairs, I glanced outside. The sky glowed with streaks of pink and red.
Ooh. I thought, I could go down to the river and take some pictures.
Now, really, nothing stops me from doing this on a regular Saturday morning during the school year, but the idea of going down spontaneously felt like a bold step out of my routine–A declaration: Summer is here! Delighted with the idea, I quickly made my coffee, poured it into a travel mug, threw on a sweatshirt and headed out.
At the river, the colors weren’t as brilliant as I’d hoped, but it was still lovely and the air pulsed with birdsong. Tendrils of mist drifted across the water’s surface and periodically a fish jumped, sending rippled circles outward.
I walked over to the bridge to get a different vantage and took some more pictures, enjoying the cool, fresh air, and the feeling of unscheduled time stretching before me. After a few minutes, a car pulled into the lot and moments later, an older man walked up, camera in hand. We nodded to each other.
“It’s a beautiful morning, isn’t it?” I said.
“Oh, yes,” he agreed, smiling.
We chatted casually for about 20 minutes, stopping every so often to take pictures as the light changed. It turns out, perhaps unsurprisingly given the context of our meeting, that we had a lot to talk about. Each of us enjoys rising early and coming down to the water to take pictures, though our spouses think we’re slightly insane. We compared favorite sightings and photos–muskrats and beaver, multiple bald eagles, a cormorant eating a catfish, a heron silhouetted in flight against a pink sky. We shared our favorite local spots for taking pictures. I told him about the Baltimore oriole that had been visiting me this spring, and he told me about watching a fox cross the iced-over river this past winter. He lamented that he hadn’t seen any kingfisher or herons this year. We shared anecdotes about our cats.
“My wife makes my photos up into photo books on Shutterfly,” he told me at one point. “I’ve got one in the car. It just came yesterday…but I wouldn’t want to bore you.”
“Oh, I’d love to see it!” I enthused sincerely.
After a few more moments of conversation and picture taking, we returned to the parking lot and he pulled the book from the backseat of his car, handing it to me. The cover photo was a stunning shot, a late afternoon picture with a silhouette of a scull and several rowers. I opened the book and paged through, and he shared additional information and background stories about the photos. As I expected, natural scenes with birds and animals featured prominently. I admired the photos, asking for help identifying some of the birds that were unknown to me.
“Oh, what a great picture of a cedar waxwing!” I said pointing at one picture. “I haven’t seen one of those in years.”
As we talked I saw a movement in the river.
“Oh, look! It’s a beaver or a muskrat!” I said, pointing.
He turned and together we watched the animal swim across the river, then dive and disappear before we could identify it. A bird fluttered into a bush near us. We both turned again.
“I can’t believe it!” I exclaimed, “I think it’s a cedar waxwing!”
And it certainly was. It didn’t cooperate enough for either of us to capture a good photo, but we delighted in watching it dart in and out of nearby bushes.
“Ok,” I finally said, “I’m going to head home now.”
“Well, I’m going to head up to my favorite spot on the tracks,” he said.
I turned and then moved closer to the water to take yet another picture.
“It’s addictive, Molly!” he said, smiling and shaking his head.
“I know!” I replied. “There’s just always that possibility that something wonderful will happen.”
He nodded and smiled again, and I knew that he knew exactly what I meant.
What a wonderful way to start summer vacation.