On a recent blue-skied and windy day, I walked the Orange Avenue pier in Fairhope.
The sun was hanging low in the winter sky and a large pine tree shadowed me as I stepped on the boardwalk. Mobile Bay was choppy, frothy, and brown.
“This is not home,” I said to myself as I started walking down the pier toward the covered area. The place seemed unfamiliar, though I come here often.
Standing under the metal-roofed shelter, I looked down at the open deck below. Two boards had popped off their nails. The water had not risen high enough to float them away, but they rested perpendicular to the steadfast boards.
There was no one around so I sat on the railing above the built in seats and wrote down a few observations in my journal. It was a clear day, Mobile and Theodore were visible and in focus.
My eyes, sheltered by sunglasses, teared up as I stared into the west wind.
Not feeling inspired by anything in particular, I decided to leave.
The wind ceased about halfway up the pier. I felt the warmth of the sun on my face. Looking landward, I caught sight of a hawk-like bird just above the tree line. He dropped into the foliage of a live oak and I lost sight of it.
I kept looking. He landed in a pine, closer to the water. I watched him.
Osprey were plentiful around Waquoit Bay in East Falmouth, Massachusetts too. I find it fitting that I’ve lived close to two WBNERRs, the Waquoit Bay and Weeks Bay Natural Estuarine Research Reserves. I have admired the osprey’s strength, beauty, and fierceness in a northeasterly wind in Waquoit Bay, from the beaches of Nantucket Sound, while in a raft in the Gulf of Mexico as an extra in a Nic Cage movie, and now on the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay.
The osprey unfolded it’s wings and leapt into the wind.
It hung in the air to my right, searching the muddy brown bay for life. With a tip of his wing and a wave of his tail, he came closer and lower, flying 20 feet in front of me, my back to the bay. He hung there without effort, scanning the brackish bay for his late afternoon meal. He coasted above the shoreline in front of or just above the tree line of Magnolia Beach park.
As I watched him, he seemed still, motionless, only the unseen air moving around him. It was as if he were hanging from a fishing line, and not under any of the Earth’s gravitational, physical, or natural rules. Surreal.
I don’t know how long I had been watching when we sized each other up by making eye contact. I became lost in this experience, as if the only two things in the world were me and this osprey. A few seconds became suspended in the engagement of two living things.
Time does not stop for man or osprey, but the beats of my life rested in the mesmerizing feathers of that osprey.