looking out over the tip of a kayak on Lake Superior

Lake Superior over the tip of my kayak.

As Laura recently pointed out, things have been busy around here. Not just at Mudminnow but with everything else the three of us do. Hence, the unintended hiatus of Musings from the Minnow.  But, work or not, I’ve had a new kayak sitting in my garage for the last three weeks and because the weather finally cooperated I took it out this past week – several times. I suppose I could have taken it out earlier but it would have involved hauling it over snow and then paddling through icebergs. And honestly? My love of kayaking does have its limits. I’d rather work than haul a kayak through snow.

But the first place I headed was a couple miles down the beach to check out the bald eagle nest. The nest is still there, but there were no signs or sounds of eaglets in there. On one visit there was an adult hopping around on the rocks nearby, and on another visit there was one soaring overhead. But neither was exhibiting territorial or protective behavior. And on the last visit, no adults were visible.

And that’s kind of the tell tale sign – the lack of adult eagles around the nest. If there are eggs or eaglets in a nest there’s usually at least one adult eagle very nearby. But this year the nest is just part of the northwoods scenery.

Which brings me to the title of this blog. In the years I’ve been watching that nest, there have always been eagles there. I didn’t think I did, but obviously I took it for granted that I would always paddle down there and see eagles tending their nest and young. And there are plenty of eagles around here – the other morning I stepped out on the beach and there were 6 soaring overhead. There was one sitting on the rocks this morning. There just aren’t eagles on “my” nest.

It’s easy to forget that it’s a rough world out there for so many of our fellow creatures. When a spring snowstorm dumps on us, we mutter “Damn! I have to plow the driveway again? Aren’t we done with winter?” But for nesting and migrating birds it’s not an inconvenience … it’s deadly.

I’m hoping I’m wrong, that the next time I paddle down there I’ll hear squawking and see adults around. But sad as that, apparently, empty nest is, it’s also good to be reminded: Things change, treasure your present moments.  

                                                                                               — Lesley


Spring is in the air

April 2, 2013

Immature eagles on the beach at Eagle River, Michigan.

Immature eagles on the beach at Eagle River, Michigan.

Literally. In the land of 15 foot snowdrifts the first herald of spring is rarely a crocus. It’s usually birds. They don’t care if there’s three feet of snow on flat ground, they’re on their own personal navigation systems. And those systems say “Go North!”

At my house, the first heralds are usually eagles. Lots of juvenile bald eagles. Bald eagles are around all winter. All they need is open water for fishing, and since Lake Superior usually has plenty of that they hang around. But in the spring they show up in flocks. The increasing sunlight and slightly warmer lake temperatures bring the salmon and trout fry swarming to the surface close to the shoreline and the eagles eat them – like little sushi bites.

This morning six immature bald eagles showed up in front of my house. The photos aren’t good because I was shooting through a screened window with an iPhone. I’d have loved to stand on my balcony and take pics but I couldn’t get out there because of the snowdrift in front of the door. Spring … it’s all relative.

— Lesley

eagle landing on beach

Remember way back in April  (oops) February when I said I was going to write a poem “on demand” about eagles at Lesley’s request? Astute observers will notice it is almost July. Lots of things have happened in the intervening months including the launching of another experiment in writing: The Keweenaw Writers Workshop. But even without work and outside projects getting in the way it probably would have taken me this long. I am not a speedy writer when it comes to poetry.

But time is relative in the poet’s world. Since we are not paid by the word, or generally paid at all, that whole deadline thing can be lovingly tucked away and forgotten, like your child’s baby teeth in a jar somewhere, or their first hair clippings taped in a book. Sure, you’ll dig them up one of these days and they will bring tears to your eyes but no one else will really care about them. And that’s OK. It’s the power of being completely ignored.

But I did actually create that poem. It started out as an attempt at a highly structured, formal piece based on repeating key words related to eagles, but it didn’t stay there. And that’s the power of “form.” It can give a writer an opening into a new piece they had no intention of writing, that perhaps causes them a lot of grief in the formative process, but in the end makes them, if not happy, then fulfilled.

The poem that came from this little experiment is “Walking By Lake Superior With My Daughter” and in my opinion it’s a bit on the dark side for this blog, but I guess I’ll risk it. Don’t get me wrong, I love motherhood as much as the next mother, but honestly it’s not an easy life and poetry does not attempt to make life easy. It attempts to make life apparent, or transparent, or just a bit clearer. And to my surprise I ended up with a poem not so much about eagles as about the pain of motherhood.

OK, you’ve been warned.

Walking By Lake Superior With My Daughter

Eagles focus twice—
overlapping circles pinpoint shade
below the water’s surface.

We’re rooted in their shade,
left to scavenge through feathers or strain our focus
on the hope of an updraft. “Tears,”

I think —“rafts of tears”—
but that’s just hyperbole.
I try to keep my focus

away from the carnage being done to a doe’s carcass
on the sand. My daughter reaches
back to draw me up, scavenging

through years, shading
my memories with her own. Look, or look away—
I may as well argue with a shadow

on the beach. This morning we focus
on breathing, as the wind pierces our lungs.
Shade of wings, then clouds, whip past. I could reach her

if she’d please not tear at me.
More than broad wings, it takes heat to soar
and hollow bones.

I’ve watched her tear fruitlessly for years.
Her focus centers on the eagle overhead—
it’s shadow obscuring the feast—

that mother’s body—
as more birds land and tear
into her sustaining shade.


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