Chrissy and I took a field trip to the Salt Marsh Nature Center at Marine Park yesterday. Though it was a very hot and humid day, we were quite comfortable in the strong salt wind and sunshine. It wasn't a very birdful outing, but I had a few great experiences and got some neat photos, which I will share with you here.
We spent a lot of time watching the wind wave through the tall cordgrass and reeds. Until yesterday I never thought of wind as having a shape. It reminded me of something I used to think about a lot as a child; I always wanted to follow just one drop of water down the street-side streams after a rain. But once it falls in with thousands of other drops, you can't find it, you can't really estimate how fast the contents of that one drop move down the stream, you can't reach in and grab it and have it be the same drop it was. Watching the reeds bend in the stream of wind and gathering the shape of the wind from the pattern of bending isn't really like that at all, but it brought up in me the same feelings of wonder and my own small place in this grand life that I had when I pondered such things as a child. Here's a picture of the landscape, alternately caressed and throttled by wind:
Chrissy had a session with a medium recently who basically told him that the universe conspires to give us what we need, if only we know how to ask for it. I've been trying that out in very specific ways, with some success. Yesterday I told the universe I would really like to see a beautiful butterfly. I then amended my request and asked to see one I've never encountered before. About ten minutes later, I came across this:
The top butterfly flew over to the reeds near me carrying this other butterfly upside down. At first I thought the one being carried was dead, because it didn't move at all and its front legs looked perhaps damaged. As it turns out, the monarchs were just mating in the beautiful weather. Occasionally the top butterfly fanned its wings open for a second, but it was mostly content to perch just as you see in the photo. Soon it flew off into the grass and I lost track of it. I had no idea my second request was about to be realized. Chrissy said, "Ooh, Leah, look at this pretty butterfly!" and I made him point it out to me because I couldn't find it on my own - these eyes are trained for birds, after all. Anyway, here's my second miracle:
I think it is a black swallowtail. I remember having a distinct and fleeting thought that "this is the red-winged blackbird of butterflies". I believe in evolution, but I believe in a benevolent creator/universe as well, and it just amazes me sometimes that anything natural can ever have come to be so breathtakingly beautiful. It gives me pause to ponder happily the purpose of beauty.
Gerritsen Creek was rife with humans enjoying the water - boats anchored with people tanning onboard, people on jet-skis, people canoeing, people wading. What a way to keep the birds out! I had been so excited to find a place similar to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, but only half as far from home, until I realized the salt marsh mustn't be as legally protected if so much loud and disruptive human activity is allowed. I saw lots of laughing gulls (new for me) with the lovely black breeding hoods, many starlings, a duck far off, a snowy egret (also new) showing off his black legs and yellow feet, the silhouette and waxen wingtips of a cedar waxwing, and a great egret hunting fish from an ancient piling.
The butterflies and the atmosphere created by the weather and the landscape were absolutely the highlights of this trip. Though I know birds are my first love (on par with words, now? Where will it end?), I feel myself growing curiouser and curiouser about insects and animals and rocks and weather. So when I'm "birdwatching" these days, I really have my eyes and heart open for any natural wonder. What an apt phrase that is - natural wonder. I have wonder for nature in the most literal sense, and my life is enriched and blessed for it all the more each day.