Apr 6 2020

The parks are busier, but nature has its own ideas…

Rosemary

Having such a sedentary profession, I try very hard to take a good walk at least five days a week.  The local linear trail is a good choice, especially if I’m short on time.  It’s right here, it’s a measurable and predictable distance, portable restrooms are nearby, and if you pick your time you can get the whole trail pretty much to yourself.  And with no difficult terrain, it’s perfect for audiobooks and podcasts (my current listen: The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home, by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor.  So far… Hm.  I’m ambivalent, but I’ll give it a few more chapters before settling on an opinion).

And if I miss the quieter hours at the linear trail, there’s Sleeping Giant State Park also nearby, with more demanding terrain.  Less compatible with audiobooks, but better suited for basking in nature and thinking deep thoughts…

Assuming, that is, that one can be alone.

Alas.  It’s an ironic fact of these pandemic days that requiring people to work from home if they possibly can, the better to maintain social distance, has actually resulted in all my favorite places of solitude being filled with people.

Today: there’s no place to park at the linear trail at all, unless you wait out a family loading up their collapsible baby-buggy, and nab their spot as they leave.  Sleeping Giant shut down its main entrance, with a ranger waving cars away and a big sign reading “PARK IS AT CAPACITY.”  And all the other trailheads leading into the park (of which there are about 10, some barely known to the general public) — all had cars right there!  Three, four, and in one case about 9, five of which were parked on the shoulder of the road.

Yes, everybody — good citizens all – -have heeded the warning and are staying away from the office.  They’ve also heeded the other warning and are staying away from the gym.  And they’ve looked up how to best conduct their new at-home working life, and read about how very important it is to move around and not sit still all day.  Obvious solution: Let’s all go for a walk!  And we’ll take the now-home-schooled kids, and the dog, and load up the stroller so baby makes five.

Well.  It is, of course Sunday today, so it’s at its worst.  Weekdays are bearable, if you can hit the 2:30 sweet spot.

But today I was itching to walk!  Even before the pandemic, I just always wanted to walk as alone as possible.  And  now — Well, I gave up, and just went to the office, as usual.

Social distancing made easy.

But when I got there, I looked around and went: Hey, wait a minute…

The parks were crowded… but this whole complex of warehouses and converted factories was completely empty.

So I just locked the car and started walking.   Over the little creek bridge,  up past the gun-range…

Creek ahead, gun range behind me.

Back past the climbing school, the HVAC installation company.  Around the movers, with their many big moving trucks now sitting idle; past the sky-high mounds of rotting skids and pallets way in the back, past the archery range and out through a driveway paralleling the Quinnipiac River.

Two kingfishers zipped past me along the creek.

 

And when I got to the street — usually pretty busy — barely a car in sight.  So I crossed, and stood on the bridge over the Quinnipiac for a bit.  Here was the solitude I was looking for…

Well, except for the adjacent Dog Park, filled with dogs and people.  But still, pretty good!  A lot of water-sounds, bird-calls.

All along my walk, I had been noticing that particular scree, scree which is the sound of either a raptor, or some other bird who has spotted a raptor and wants to warn everybody by imitating the sound —  blue jays are generally good at that kind of warning call.  So I was already on the look-out.  Hawk, or something, right?  Love to catch sight of that…

And what should sail into view but two freakin’ bald eagles.

One had a fish; the other wanted that fish.  Hijinks ensued.

They weren’t technically bald, as neither had their adult plumage yet; but one was clearly on the way, with great splotches of white on his head and tail.  And they were just up there in the sky, not all that high, and swooping lower.  I didn’t have the presence of mind to pull out my camera; I just soaked it all in.

The one with the fish was heavily burdened; that thing must have been a good 10 inches long, and wriggling like mad in the bird’s talons.   The eagle had to work had to keep in the air –which it was strongly motivated to do, as the other eagle (probably a sibling), kept zooming in, flipping nearly upside down at the last moment, to make its snatches at the prize.

Eventually, the pair moved away from the river and went down the street — and I mean: down the street, lower than the tops of the trees on each side, just sailing along above the empty road.  And left at the fork.  And then gone.

Now, I did already know there were bald eagles around here, and I’ve spotted them before, back when I first got this office.  But I hadn’t seen the eagles  for a couple of years, actually. And I’ve even seen this fish-stealing behavior before (between two adults), but at a much greater distance,  with them mere specks, and me squinting up at the sky.

This was amazing.

I do not live in the wilderness — this is a town.  Just now… a bit  quieter.

I think I’ll skip the parks and  just stroll the streets from now on.   They’ll get busy again, noisy again.  But for now: me and the birds.