Birds and Bread

I have about ten minutes before I need to tend to the sourdough.  The leaven ripened faster because our air is so warm. It’s Florida.

Took a 45 minute bike ride around the community this afternoon before the leaven was ready.

The first thing I encountered was a great blue heron posing under an oak.  It looked at me as I rode past, and I looked back. At little farther on the canal I was riding by, I encountered a wood stork, who had his mouth open and looked as if he was panting. He still looked professorial, even if he was too hot.

In nearby neighborhoods, I spied five noisy blue jays, morning doves, grackles, starlings and mockingbirds singing their hearts out–but  as always, the mockingbirds were singing somebody else’s  song.  Then there were white ibis, mottled ducks and a cattle egret perched on a wire.

I took a private road.  Short, dirt-covered and bumpy.    At the end, a bulldozed wet area–two roseate spoonbills, two great egrets, a couple of snowy egrets, some immature blue herons and a green heron.  And me, loving every minute of the calm, beautiful birds, caught in a moment. Still and beautiful . I stopped and paid tribute. What else can a human do?

Time to add something to the dough.  Salt and water and flour.  That’s all there is in the bread I make. You have to use your hands, opposable thumbs and all, to mix it up. It feels good. Sticky. but good.

Back to the bike route- on the way home I saw five fish crows, the “Oh-Oh” birds of Florida.  And a bald eagle, flapping its wings and flying  over our house.

Like me.


The Way of the Owl

Wesley and Stacey O’Brien on youtube

Barn owls are beautiful and found in Florida and many other states.

Our photography professor at Syracuse University once told our class that kids, pets and nuns were sure winners. Nuns don’t wear habits anymore (my sister called them black brides when she was young) and our kids are grown and out of camera reach, so that leaves pets.  I just finished reading a wonderful book by Stacey O’Brien titled Wesley the Owl; she adopts an injured baby barn owl, it imprints upon her, and they have many years of togetherness.  The book is illustrated with photographs, and it is not a children’s book, although older children would enjoy it.  I loved it.

Wesley the owl trusts only Stacey and a few others.  He is a wonderful combination of instinct, emotion and  intelligence, as are owls in general.   For instance, Wesley, when he reaches maturity,  tries–successfully on his part (read the book!) to mate with Stacy’s arm, and in full courtship mode tries to feed her mice, even getting one in her mouth. Consequently, every day during  the normal owl mating season she has to pretend to eat a mouse, cleverly disguising it, which is not an easy task given how smart he is.  Justified, Wesley backs off–he has done right by his mate.

She loves this owl and he loves her.  There is no other word for it.  In fact, love might not even cover a cross-species relationship. They inhabit each other’s lives by sharing what they can, communicating, and everything in-between–testing, laughing, crying, debating and learning from one another. They are in constant company, indoors, throughout his life, and hers, even when she becomes dreadfully sick.

I especially love what she calls The Way of the Owl:

You commit for life, you finish what you start, you give your unconditional love, and that is enough.

My neighbor has rescued a lot of baby owls this winter and re-nested them too.  The barn owls were his favorites, and his wife and rescue companion  lent me this book. My thanks to them both.

My husband and I have two pets, pictured with this post. One barks at the UPS man and the other  appreciates anoles, a little too much. Toby the dog is sleeping at my feet and just wagged her tail while dreaming. Maybe she was running at the dog beach.  The scrawny wonder, Little Guy sleeps in the sun on the back of the claw-ripped sofa. He is an indoor cat with aspirations. They consent to be ours, even now, when an exciting time for the humans in the household is a good book or possibly a bird on the dock.

May there always be owls and pets. And books to read.

Our dog Toby, who is proudly a mutt with a purple tongue
Our dog Toby, who is proudly a mutt with a purple tongue
Little Guy, who bites gently when he's had enough, which is often.
Little Guy, who bites gently when he’s had enough, which is often.