Tuesday, September 10, 2019

With A Watchful Eye

A parent Barn Swallows feeding young at Woodland Dunes in Two Rivers
Moments are all we ever will have.  I tried memorizing the Wisconsin landscape one last time. 

As the young were getting ready to leave their parents, so was I.  Once again the summer flew by much too quickly.

My brother's beautiful oasis.
Wisconsin was the end of my 2018-19 birding season. It will be some time before I go back again. 

I realized that everything is different now.  I cannot help but see the past everywhere I go.  Faces that were once a fixture of a place are now gone.  It's like the town grew old without me. 

For the first time in my life, I actually felt like my family had dodged a bullet.  My Dad was going to be okay this time, but I got a glimpse of the future and I didn't like what I saw. 

Green Heron in Manitowoc
I don't feel any different here in Arizona.  When I observe birds in Wisconsin though, I feel some strange past connection.  The birding has a weight to it.  In Arizona, it's a fun daily game.  But when I see a bird in my hometown, it's like hearing an old 80's song from high school. It floods my brain with memories and people.

Common Yellowthroat
Sometimes I'd walk down causeways.  I like lighthouses.  And I like gulls and cold lake air.  I memorize the smells and feelings that belong to that moment. I am in command of that moment. There will never be another moment like it.  I see my future and I am at peace with it. But living in the moment can be difficult for me because I know the "now" can never last forever.  In that moment, everything is as it should be, safe. It won't be that way again. 

A lighthouse in Kewaunee
The mascot of this blog is the Bonaparte's Gull.  It is a gull that I love most. It's also why it's the header to Las Aventuras. I wish I could trap this moment and return to it again and again and again. It brings me joy. 

A Bonaparte's Gull
Whether it was a birding thing or family outing, I tried to absorb every detail. Normally, I "disappear" from my family when I'm not home visiting. I'm in Arizona and if it weren't for texts, I'd be missing in action for months.  I hate talking on the phone and am not one for writing letters anymore.  We all live our busy lives.  When I'm home, I catch up on all the daily happenings between the family members.  

In the Upper Pennisula of Michigan with my Dad and Jax
I see patterns and cycles. Change does not happen easily there. Perhaps we are all stubborn and set in our ways.  I wonder if we all truly appreciate that we are together.  One event flows into the other without really giving everyone a chance to think about the experience.  Or appreciating that moment. It's always planning for the next. Maybe it's because my siblings have children and that's what children do, talk about the "next thing" that they're going to do instead of taking in the moment.  I tried working with 4 of the nephews and nieces on that one.  We were at a movie and my niece asked me what we were going to do the next day.  I told them to just watch the movie:)

Henslow's Sparrow at High Cliff State Park
One morning I won't forget anytime soon will be the one where I went with Travis to find the Henslow's Sparrow in a prairie 40 minutes away from home. It would complete my sparrow chase for the state and the list of new sparrows I had hoped to observe in the field for this summer. What a wonderful morning out as we watched this amazing lifer sing on top of the bushes surrounded by a sea of grass.

My Dad and I usually do a trek out to Washington Island from Door County.  We took J-man with us.  I'll say he was pretty good for most of the time, but not having had children myself, he certainly knew how to get me to snap.  There was one night I blew a gasket with him.  He wanted up and down and up and down and up and down a chair while I was trying to get a project done.  I don't know where that darkness came from but it emerged quickly and took only a moment to put this 3, turning 4 year old, in his place.  I can't believe I actually yelled at him. I love that kid. I actually went to bed upset that I snapped at him. 

In Door County
There are so many voices in a family.  Quiet time is a must.  If I don't have that space, I unravel into a nightmare of a human.  I know myself well enough to make that an important thing.  My father tries to do the same, but he often can't escape the noise.  We both have that in common.  Peace and quiet are sacred things and I wish we all respected those a little more with each other because it is important.

One day, I watched Trumpeter Swans at Horicon alone. I only had a few hours to play.  If this had been in Arizona, I'd have spent the whole day there counting birds. 

My brother created his peaceful retreat.  He put his pontoon into the river by his home.  This land used to be my Grandmother's before she passed. I'm glad he has it now.  It's so beautiful there. While home, we took the pontoon up and down the river. I'm proud of my brother for taking something precious and making it better. That river is incredible.  

My little sister pulls the pontoon to the dock in her fancy shoes
But at the end, I was ready to go home.  It had been a great summer, but I had work waiting for me back in Tucson. It will be another several years before I head back to Wisconsin.  My birding year for next year is already planned.  I'll be in Oregon and Washington this October and Hawaii in December.  Then there are potential treks to New Zealand, Florida, Thailand and Central America.  One of them will have to be cut from the schedule, but for now I'm leaving it all open. 

This little guy will be bigger the next time I see him. I hope he stays curious and continues his love for the outdoors. Over the next several weeks, we head back to Arizona for a scouting mission, a birding festival and trek to Greer in the White Mountains.  

Until next time friends......


  1. Memories are the things that sustain us during tough or down times. They can't be erased and the good ones are always treasured.

    1. Yes. Memories are everything. I try to write them all down so that I never forget. This blog is a living diary of it all.

  2. A very thouightful post Yes I think at times we all need out own bit of piece and quiet Glad the little guy is interesting in nature. I am just about to go to Australia for 6 weeks but have all my post scheduled in (bit of a marathon that was!) Unfortunately I will not be commenting while I am away but as often as I can will look at bloggers posts.

    1. Hope you are having a blast!!! I am envious! Australia....

  3. Hello, wonderful photos. It is great to spend time with the family. I like the cute little birder. I am sure you gave him some great tips on birding. Great series of photos. Enjoy your day and week ahead!

  4. Beautiful photography and delightfully poetic writing, Chris. So pleased to hear that your father pulled through. I wish him, you, and the rest of the family all the best. Take good care - - - Richard

  5. Brilliant images, the Swallow feeding its chick is fabulous, thanks.

  6. A poignant post and wonderful photos. So glad your father is ok. I think we all need time on our own just to be able to think and be tranquil.

    1. Yes. Private space is so important. I wasn't used to the quiet for many years after moving out from my big family, but over the years, I have become comfortable with that silence. It's a wonderful thing.


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