Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Old Man and the Eagle

We headed out to the walking trail along the bay. It was cold and windy, but we really wanted to walk. There were fewer people on the trail for a dry Saturday than we had expected. While we were briskly walking along with our eyes tearing and noses running, a lovely old gentleman approached us, walking stick in hand, and beamed "A fine, fine day, isn't it?" We agreed. Fine it was, if a bit cold. He says, "I love this air as it comes across the water. So clean, so clean." We nodded. He continued,"Our air just blows in across the pacific with nothing between us and Japan."
Papermill walking trail before the clouds blew away
But then he asks, "have you noticed that the paper plant seems to be burning something that makes your eyes tear up and burn." I say yes, because I had noticed that. He tells us that he knows something about paper mills because he had gotten his PhD in pulp and paper chemistry a long time ago. Most people, he says, think the smoke out of those stacks is bad for them, but it's not. It's just sulphur. It's really good for you like garlic and asparagus. He says, "They must be burning something else. Have you seen the eagles that like to perch in the trees along here?" Oh yes. We've seen them and photographed them. We all love to tell our eagle stories.

The seagulls have been flying all along the bluff during the conversation, but something larger catches my eye, and I look up. I see an eagle approaching. It flies along the water.
It flies away toward the cloudy part of the sky, and I snap pictures as quickly as I can. I find it hard to photograph birds when they are flying. They keep moving in and out of focus.
It comes back to the sunny sky, and flies along the top of the bluff. It circle back and flies directly over us.
The pirate, the old man, and I are having the closest encounter we've ever had with an eagle.
I know that the photograph will be blurry. My hands were shaking with excitement. I show the old man the small picture on the digital camera lcd. He looks at it, and says, well maybe you can blow it up and crop it so you can really see that bird.
We walk on and find the eagle perched in the tree we had just been talking about. I take an easy shot. We remember why we are always glad to walk this trail even on a windy, cold day.

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