Category Archives: Photos

Places to Go, Things to See

The weekend looms. A good opportunity to review some of the places we’ve visited recently for relief from the continuing gloom of a city not yet recovered from COVID’s shutdown of the economy.

Over a span of a few months we have been on the road quite a bit. A very brief sample of some of the available delights follows, starting with the most distant from Washington:

Savage River Lodge

This place is located at the end of a 1.5 mile gravel road in upper northwest Maryland, best attempted only if you have at least a front-wheel drive vehicle and (in winter) 4-wheel drive. The lodge has a restaurant with outdoor seating and a collection of cabins and yurts for rent. The site is remote and hilly but abounds in natural beauty. It is an easy drive to Grantsville, MD and close to Frostburg.

In one day we saw about a dozen deer, a personal record. The Casselman Bridge in the last photo is in Grantsville whose principal attraction is the Hill Top Fruit Market which is mainly a candy store, lined with bins of all manner of sweet stuff, including many you haven’t seen since childhood. You can also buy fresh fruits and vegetables there. The Fernwood Soap shop and the flowers are in the Spruce Forest Artisan Village, adjacent to the Penn Alps Restaurant & Craft Shop.

Be advised that for a more accessible but still interesting “remote” experience, the cabins in New Germany State Park are very hospitable and inexpensive. They are a fun place to use as a base for exploring the area, maybe doing a little fishing, rafting and such.

Skyline Drive

This, of course, is the 105-mile mountain-top ride in Shenandoah National Park in the magnificent Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, Don’t  think about driving the full length of the Drive unless you plan to stay overnight at some of the few on-site lodges. The speed limit is low and the road curves, rises and falls incessantly so fast driving is not in the cards. Besides, you’ll miss the scenery.

Great Falls Park After Hurricane Ida

One of the interesting aspects of Great Falls Park is that it is radically affected by upstream rainfall, which is evident in this small sample of photos showing the impact of Hurricane Ida having dropped massive water upstream. The water is high and brown. Impressive but you wouldn’t want to fall in.

Dyke Marsh

This little gem, about two miles roundtrip, flat as a pancake, can surprise you with unexpected visual delights. In the right season, red-wing blackbirds make the adjoining vegetation their nesting grounds. The Potomac River runs alongside. There are usually a few walkers along the way but even on weekends, we have found Dyke Marsh trail uncrowded and pleasant for a short easy walk. My wife’s uncanny ability to spot creatures in the wild accounts for the grasshoppers and Blue-tailed Skinks that I would have missed entirely.

Sadly, there is always evidence that humans have been here before us, seemingly the unavoidable consequence of so much nature so close to so many people who just don’t understand:

Tregaron

Finally, even closer to [our] home is Tregaron Conservancy, entered most conveniently from either Macomb Street NW or Klingle Road NW. It is situated between the Cleveland Park and Woodley Park neighborhoods just west of Rock Creek Park. The park is small but considering it’s in the middle of a city neighborhood, it has some interesting features, the best of which, for us, was the Lily Pond, small but full of life.

There were, of course, many more frogs and dragon flies, as well as a small armada of goldfish. The frogs are quite bold, as these photos attest.

Frogs have featured in Japanese haiku for centuries and somehow capture the essence:

The old pond

A frog leaps in.

Sound of the water.

What else is there to say?

Conclusion

We continue to be pleasantly surprised at the natural resources available around the Washington area and are often surprised by the wildlife that thrives in our midst. Walking slowly and observing quietly usually pays off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Than the Heart Can Bear

Early last evening we visited the Washington Monument grounds to see the acres and acres of white flags that have been placed there by artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg to memorialize the more than 670,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19. The display of flags is called America Remember. It has received little attention from media.

Stunning in scale, the flags cut into you, especially, I suspect if, like us, you have lost a loved one to the virus. Some who visited have penned notes on the flags, expressing their grief.

The setting is surreal, watched over by the Washington Monument. It can be seen from the White House. It is overwhelming. You have to see it, to walk among the endless row upon row of white symbols of death, of loss, of pointless tragedy. For those who can’t do so in person, I hope these photographs will suffice at least for now. There are no words.

 

 

Another Day, Another Park

Since a certain group of people continue to prevent the country from escaping the pandemic, we remain in partial shutdown and, if you regard your health seriously, limited to where we can eat and otherwise do “normally.” The road ahead seems long and unpleasant.

Thus, desperate for escape, needy of stimulation and just to get some air, we visited yet another “local” park last weekend. Two actually, though one barely counts, as you will see.

Our destination was Neabsco Regional Park in Woodbridge, VA, billed as “300 acres of natural, recreational, and historic amenities including the Rippon Lodge Historic Site, Rippon Landing, the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail Neabsco Creek Boardwalk, Julie J. Metz Neabsco Creek Wetlands Preserve, and portions of historic Kings Highway.” https://bit.ly/2VS0oYt We opted for the Boardwalk. You can see an aerial photo of the Boardwalk on the website.

The upside of the Boardwalk is that it’s a … boardwalk. You stay above the muck, mud and other “things” while having a broad view of the natural scene. The downside of the Boardwalk is that it enables bicyclists, strollers and large groups to move easily along and disrupt, in a minor way, your tranquility.

This is part of the Boardwalk that is surprisingly long:

The other outstanding feature of Neabsco is that the bog/swamp area is surprisingly uniform. For an area this large there appears to be relatively little biodiversity.

Nevertheless, the observant observer can see plenty of interesting activity in  and above the bush. In addition to the turtle “hotel”

we saw some beautiful flowers, though, curiously, they mostly were single blossoms poking through the surrounding greenery:

though, as always, there were brilliant exceptions:

But, of course, the real “juice” at a place like this is the wildlife and we had several delightful surprises. At ground level, there was this amazing  heron whose neck contortions in his slow hunt for food were astonishing to see up close:

By the way, the crawfish (we think) in his bill in the last picture escaped at the least moment! The heron took it in stride and resumed his stalking through the bog.

The thing is that in a place like this your attention is naturally drawn downward, but it’s important not to focus too much on what’s right in front of you. My wife’s vision for spotting animals in the wild is remarkable. and she detected these bald eagles quietly hunting and the osprey in a tree  probably a hundred yards away:

Largely sated by these experiences, we departed for Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, where we limited ourselves to what is billed as the Wildlife Drive. Mistake. If you want to see what this Refuge has to offer, you’ll have to do it on foot. The Wildlife Drive looks like a narrow gravel road running among bushes and trees for it’s entire distance. Nothing to see. There are foot trails; check the map carefully to find them. The oddest thing was that these signs appeared throughout the drive:

We still haven’t figured out what you would dig for but it must be a real problem because there were a lot of signs. We were pretty disappointed in this experience, but it did not detract from the cool stuff in Neabsco. And, yes, the featured image at the top of this post, butterfly on flower, was taken there.

Farm Markets

Back in my motorcycle riding days especially (Harley Dyna Wide Glide), we grew fond of visits to local farm markets, mainly in the nearby Virginia countryside. Sadly, farm markets that stock the production of local farmers or their own home-grown items are disappearing at a frightening pace. The process began before the pandemic struck and likely has accelerated since then.

The worst case of which we are aware is the closing of Westmoreland Berry Farm to public visits. It’s far away – a good 3.5 hour drive – but was a wonderland of fresh fruits, vegetables and had a kitchen that served both authentic chili dogs and fantastic sundaes laden with fresh fruits and syrups. Westmoreland had a goat tower and more, but, alas, it is no more.

But there are thriving survivors. We set out last weekend to visit a few.

We chose this place near Berryville, VA as our main destination.

That choice was heavily influenced by the continued presence on Route 7 Westbound of the Hill High Orchard market, a past source of fantastic pie and passable coffee on motorcycle and car trips alike.

We had not visited Hill High for some years and were concerned, needlessly it turned out, that it would be drastically diminished. The reality was the opposite: it now includes outdoor seating, an art gallery and shop and more. The parking areas were almost full. The pies are still there in abundance, by the slice and whole, and the coffee has much improved.

Inside, High Hill features what must be one of the largest collections of canned beverages for sale anywhere:

We will return to Hill High for pie and coffee again soon.

[First, an aside from the past. On a years-ago motorcycle ride with a friend in back, we stopped at Hill High. The “system” then was that you ordered your pie, got your coffee from an urn and, on the honor system, paid on your way out. On this trip, I thought my companion had paid and she thought I had. We ate pie inside and drank our coffees. Then we drove away and were many miles toward home when we realized what had happened.

Some weeks later, I rode alone back the 50+ miles to Hill High to settle up my debt. I explained what had happened to the young man staffing the cash register. His response: “Aw, that’s ok, don’t worry about it. It happens all the time.”

That news made me more determined than ever to square the debt, so I insisted he take the money. You can’t keep a business going without getting paid. Thankfully, High High is still there and apparently prospering.]

The next stop was Macintosh itself. It also was full of surprises. I will just let the photos tells the story – most of it.

 

The flowers are there to be picked by visitors, but we chose to take only photos with us. The pick-your-own fruit seemed like a major hit with visitors who set out with wagons and boxes for the well-marked rows of various fruits in season.

Now for the fun part. Look at this photo closely. Do you see it?

OK, it’s not easy. Can you see it now?

Still no?

Well, here’s “it.”

You saw it, right?

We think it’s probably an American Goldfinch. The bird hung around for a long time, fearlessly taking nectar from the flowers in front of us and was eventually joined by a friend who escaped my lens. It was a delight to watch such a beautiful creature going about its business in its natural habitat.

We departed with full stomachs and bags of fruit and condiments.

Final stop: Nalls Farm Market that sits just off Route 7 Eastbound, also claiming a Berryville address. Nalls is a smaller operation and being already well stocked, we didn’t stay long.

If you’re out that way looking for firewood, however, Nalls has plenty:

All in all, good food, memories refreshed and a beautiful bird to watch among spectacular flowers. A fine days’ pleasure. Highly recommended.

Final Note:

When we arrived back in DC, we decided to buy a car. We settled on a Ford Titanium Escape Hybrid. We had driven an Escape in our prior time in the area, with good results on maintenance, and, despite the added cost, we went for the Hybrid version.

This may seem hard to believe, but it’s not our first time with this experience. Macintosh Farms is about 70 miles from our apartment. With added miles for driving through Berryville and the stop at Nalls Farm Market, I estimate we drove about 150 miles total roundtrip.

Our hybrid vehicle includes a “total energy onboard” icon that tells you how far you can expect to drive on the combination of gas and electricity stored on the car. Since braking, among other things, transfers energy back to the battery, you can experience, as we did this time (not making this up), a trip on which you have more miles of driving left on the tank after the trip than you did before you left. Truth. It is also not uncommon for us to get 50+ and even 60+ miles per gallon overall on some drives. Buy a hybrid. Save the world.

 

 

 

Mason Neck “State” Park

One of our former regular go-to outdoor places is Mason Neck State Park [https://bit.ly/3m3qFh8] which is technically in Lorton, VA, but for us is just a drive out Route 1 (Richmond Highway) and Gunston Road – total distance from our place is about an hour’s drive (40 minutes, in theory, for high risk drivers using I-395). “State” is in quotes because the Park is also the Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge, which means my National Parks Lifetime Senior Pass is accepted for entry.

We returned there a couple of weekends ago. We chose to walk the one-mile Bayview Trail this time and had a remarkable experience, spying a number of forest creatures and some interesting trees as well. We encountered one of the rangers near the end of our walk and had an interesting discussion with her about the natural inhabitants of the park.

Here is a sample from our short walk.

A final word about the tree with carved initials. PLEASE don’t desecrate the forest this  way. You could kill a tree by exposing its inner systems to disease and insect attacks. If you see someone doing this to a tree, anywhere, take their picture if you can and report them to the appropriate authorities. Let’s keep our natural places as natural as possible so that everyone can enjoy them.

 

Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens

This past Saturday we visited Kenilworth  Park & Aquatic Gardens in the Anacostia section of the District of Columbia. We arrived before noon and were shocked to find the place packed with people. There were some parking spots left, however, so it all worked out.

The Park is a National Park Service facility on the banks of the Anacostia River. It’s primary function is a large collection of ponds containing waterlilies and lotuses. We were fortunate to spot a young beaver — actually, my wife has a remarkable eye for spotting wildlife in obscure places but I took the photo looking into deep shadows that she assured me contained a critter. I did spot the two bumblebees … uh, making… bee whoopee in the flower shot below.

The other photos are a good sample of what can be seen at Kenilworth — of course, the real thing is always better. Visit the place — it’s a treat.

[To view as a slide show, click the first image]

 

Return to New York City—Jazz and More

That reads like the title of a novel, but it was just us finally getting back to the Great City for a visit, the first since moving to Washington on December 1, 2020. We stayed in the Loew’s Regency on Park Avenue, a nicely updated hotel with a surprisingly large room and, except for the bathroom, well designed.

We had planned this trip for some time and near the departure date learned that Birdland, one of New York’s legendary jazz clubs, would be re-opening for live performances just before our arrival. So, of course, we booked ourselves in there for Saturday night to see a group we had not known before – the Emmet Cohen Trio. The owner of the club opened the music part of the evening with a special welcome back to a packed and enthusiastic crowd, everyone excited to hear live jazz again. Then Cohen led the band in an opening medley of well-known jazz standards. Everyone was moved by the first piece—the classic Lullaby of Birdland made famous by George Shearing back in the day. An emotional and perfect way to start the evening.

Emmet Cohen proved an adept pianist in the jazz genre, moving easily among classical forms and more contemporary vibes. He and his musical mates, Russell Hall on bass (details about him here: http://www.russellhallbass.com/bio)  and Kyle Poole on drums (details about him here: http://www.kylepooledrums.com/about-1)  were perfectly matched and clearly had a great time entertaining the crowd.

The food at Birdland was decent and the service excellent, especially considering they had just reopened two nights before. Interesting to us that there were so many young people in the audience. Here are photos of the line waiting to get in for the second show:

When we emerged after the show, we saw this:

a moving reminder of the scene just out of our apartment window during our three-year sojourn in the big city.

Sadly, we have lost the Jazz Standard to the pandemic, but the Village Vanguard and Smoke will hopefully reopen soon, and jazz will once again resound through the streets of New York.

On Sunday we lunched with a New York friend at Tavern on the Green, another great nostalgic return. That night, we dined at The Leopard at Des Artistes on West 67th. Our guest was my wife’s ballet instructor, Finis Jhung, New York City’s renowned ballet master. He danced with Joffrey Ballet, had his own company at one point and has trained some of the world’s greatest ballet dancers and Broadway stars. A very interesting person with whom to chat.

On Monday my New Jersey-resident daughter and family, my two grandsons in tow, joined us for lunch at Rosa Mexicano near Lincoln Center, which is just up the avenue from our old apartment. After lunch, we walked to Josie Robertson Plaza, the center element of the Center with its Revson Fountain running again. The Plaza has been completely covered in AstroTurf, with seats and other features (food stall, reading area) and is perfect for lounging around on a lazy day, which is just what we encountered:

Finally, when in NYC, one should always look up. In addition to surprising art and architectural features, there is the sheer magnitude and daring of buildings like these:

If you don’t look up from time to time, you miss it.

A Tree(s) Grows in DC

When I first noticed this tree, near where I live, I failed to grasp its unusual nature. On first look, it’s another large member of the pine family (don’t hold me to that – maybe a fir?).

On closer examination, something extraordinary is revealed.

You see the stump that has apparently been cut off:

Then notice that the trunk turns to parallel the ground and then rises vertically again.

And on closer inspection, you see the second trunk rising out of the first one half the distance from the center trunk to the point where the horizontal trunk turns vertical again on the right. This gives the appearance of two separate trees when you first see the high tops as in the first photo above.

I have no idea what event(s) led to this tree taking this conformation but it seems remarkable, especially for such a large tree adjacent to a busy city intersection. In any case, I have never seen anything quite like it after many years of tree hugging, so I decided to share it.

Go Back Where You Came From!!

If you’ve been paying attention, you have seen many videos and news reports of people, on the street and in stores, yelling at, usually, Black people but also Asians, Latinos, Arabs or other “non-whites”  that they should “go back where you came from, you _______!” The blank often includes an obnoxious epithet of one kind or another that I choose not to repeat. You know what I’m talking about.

For the past three years, we lived in, and loved, New York City and in the course of that time observed literally hundreds of ethnically diverse people everywhere. It is reported that over 200 languages are spoken by people in New York City and on any given walk, if you paid attention, you usually heard quite a few.

That mixing does not imply harmony, of course. One rainy night, a torrential downpour actually, we emerged unprepared from a Broadway show but miraculously caught a taxi near the theater. Traffic was a snarled mess even by New York City standards, with vehicles and soaked pedestrians fighting for space. Our taxi and another vehicle, likely an Uber-type, came close to each other. No contact was made, but the drivers glared at each other. Our driver lowered his window and began muttering epithets at the other, who appeared to return the insults. The words weren’t about driving but about ethnicity. It wasn’t clear who was what, but it was clear enough that they hated each other on sight.

A while back, after we moved to Washington DC, it occurred to me to conduct a little thought experiment about this “go back where you came from” business. Because I have other things to do, I was forced to use a shortcut for my research: Wikipedia, the modern source of all knowledge not found in Google. I found three articles particularly relevant to my quest: American Ancestry (https://bit.ly/353Ywx8), Native American Ancestry (https://bit.ly/2KLJ4io), and Americans (https://bit.ly/3oc8Omj). Woe to the serious researcher.

My concept is straightforward: if everyone “went back where they came from,” where would they go and what would be the consequences, especially for those people most prone to yell this message at others presumed to come from somewhere that is not here.

The astounding complexity of this task became immediately apparent in thinking about my own “origins” (not genetic origins in the sense of ancestry.com or 23andMe.com, although that path would have similarly complex implications). My maternal grandparents emigrated to the United States from Russia. My father’s lineage, I was told, was Dutch but there is no objective evidence remaining to support that belief. So, set me aside for a moment and let’s look at some data.

Wikipedia reports that 6.6 % of the US population (21,227,906) self-identifies as “American.” They reside mainly in southern and midwestern states, speak only English and claim to be mostly Christian (Protestants). They appear to be White.

Much of this is attributed to the length of time their ancestors have been in the United States, as these people tend to have English, Scotch-Irish or other British ancestries.

Nevertheless, according to the U.S. Census, “the vast majority of Americans and expatriates do not equate their nationality with ancestry, race or ethnicity, but with citizenship and allegiance.” I am reminded of the fictional Popeye the Sailor Man’s famous line, “”I yam what I yam and that’s all what I yam.” Apparently, many so-called “Americans” have taken Popeye to heart. They have managed to forget their real origins, somehow coming to believe that they are the true original “Americans” with some unique entitlement to the space between the oceans.

On the other hand, given the re-emergence of racism, white supremacy and related bigotries in American behavior, there is now reason to question whether the Census is asking the right questions. Donald Trump didn’t create racism; he simply re-legitimized its expression, with horrific results.

If you don’t get that, let me return briefly to my personal history. I recently came upon some photos I had scanned from my high school yearbook – Central High in Memphis, Tennessee, circa 1960. At the time Central was very well-regarded among public high schools, at least in the south. Here are two  photos from that yearbook:

Add to this that my junior high school history teacher made explicitly clear to our class that, in addressing the U.S. Civil War, there was to be no discussion of slavery. The War Between the States, we were assured, was not about slavery at all but about “states’ rights.” The reality that those “rights” involved legitimizing the ownership of one group of people by their white “masters” was, well, not to be mentioned.

I am not informed about the content of pre-college curricula around the country. I cannot, therefore, say with confidence that the distortion of history, the removal of civics courses and related “education” moves have produced the generations of ignorance that led 74 million Americans to vote for the likes of Donald Trump in 2020.

But, returning to my main theme, I can say with some confidence that the “go back where you came from” insult is based on a fundamental failure to grasp reality. For example, the self-identification of “American” in the Census is a gross example of what may be one of the first instances of cultural appropriation in “American” history.

The earliest use of “American” to “identify an ancestral or cultural identity dates to the late 1500s, with the term signifying “the indigenous peoples discovered in the Western Hemisphere by Europeans.”  The term was later extended to the white colonists from Europe. Skipping over the sordid history of early-comers’ resistance to newcomers from Ireland, Germany and other European countries, including many Catholics, the modern-day U.S. Census Bureau now defines “ancestry” as a reference to a person’s ethnic origin or descent, ‘roots,’ or heritage, or the place of birth of the person or the person’s parents or ancestors before their arrival in the United States.” That wide-open approach clears the path to ignoring reality by millions of people. They don’t have to think hard about it – “I’m American….You, on the other hand …..”

Among Census responders self-identifying their ancestry as something other than just “American,” the numbers are:

44.2 million — German

22.8 million English

4.5 million Norwegian

4.5 million Dutch

.6 million Finnish

33 million Irish (many more likely if survey had been done on St Patrick’s Day)

10.4 million French

15.6 million Italian

12.2 million Mexican

5.2 million Native American

10 million Spanish

46.7 million African American

5.8 million Puerto Rican

That collection totals 215.5 million people, roughly two-thirds of the US population. Add to that the 6.6 percent who are just “American” (21,227,906) and you get 236 million people. The rest (roughly 100 million) identify with some other origin, but don’t claim to be “American.”

Wikipedia quotes Professors Anthony Daniel Perez and Charles Hirschman in a 2009 publication for the proposition that

ethnicity is receding from the consciousness of many white Americans. Because national origins do not count for very much in contemporary America, many whites are content with a simplified Americanized racial identity. The loss of specific ancestral attachments among many white Americans also results from high patterns of intermarriage and ethnic blending among whites of different European stocks.

I wonder about that in light of developments since at least 2016 when Trump became president. It appears that the issues surrounding “otherness” have re-emerged with a vengeance since Trump became a political factor. That’s one reason for the imbalance of police force used against Black and Brown people here, as well as the “go back where you came from” carping that has emerged in video after video of (almost always) white people yelling at a person of color.

While non-Native Americans have occupied this land for a few hundred years, the fact remains that every one of the “white” people here came from, directly or through an ancestor, from somewhere else. It’s convenient, of course, to overlook that reality if you are one of those people who, with a sense of entitlement, has come to resent the presence of people who don’t look like you, talk like you or think like you.

The 2010 Census aligned U.S. responders this way:

Self-identified race Percent of population
White 72.4%
Black or African American 12.6%
Asian 4.8%
American Indians and Alaska Natives 0.9%
Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders 0.2%
Two or more races 2.9%
Some other race 6.2%
Total 100.0%

Reading the descriptions of racial and ancestral categories used by the Census and other surveys will simply make you more confused. By way of example only,

People of European descent, or White Americans (also referred to as Caucasian Americans), constitute the majority of the 308 million people living in the United States, with 72.4% of the population in the 2010 United States Census. They are considered people who trace their ancestry to the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. Of those reporting to be White American, 7,487,133 reported to be Multiracial; with largest combination being white and black. Additionally, there are 29,184,290 White Hispanics or Latinos. Non-Hispanic Whites are the majority in 45 states. There are five minority-majority states: California, Texas, New MexicoNevada, and Hawaii. In addition, the District of Columbia and the five inhabited U.S. territories have a non-white majority The state with the highest percentage of non-Hispanic White Americans is Maine.

Everyone clear on all that? No? Me neither.

I will spare you further agonizing over the details. The main point is, and I believe it’s conclusive, that if we all went back where we came from, there would be damn few people left in the space we now call the United States.

So what, you may say. That’s not going to happen. True enough. But it should give us pause in how we view “America” and who we really are. It is no exaggeration to say, “we are all immigrants.” Maybe not first removed, but the vast vast majority of people who think of themselves as “American” are, by history, transplanted foreigners who occupied land that actually “belonged” to no  one (Native American populations often did not consider the idea of “property” to apply to the land – this was one of the ruses used to excuse white invaders’ taking their land: if they don’t “own” it, it’s there for anyone who wants to stake a claim to it. When the Native Americans resisted, they were killed or imprisoned, one way or another, in the service of “manifest destiny.”)

Still, the “so what” response must be reckoned with. Millions of people have simply lost, by one means other another, their connection to their historical roots, choosing to believe they are the original people who are entitled to everything they want by virtue of some supposed universal superiority. That fantasy is part of the root of the delusional thinking that divides the country politically and otherwise. A very long time will pass before it is resolved but it would help a lot if the educational system stopped reinforcing the illusion. The first step to resolving a problem is recognizing you have one.

Flight of the Valkyries

Having looked at the photo above, were you reminded of Wagner’s Flight of the Valkyries? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YOYlgvI1uE

Now maybe? That’s what comes to mind for me, but you may be more familiar with the song popularized by the late John Denver, The Eagle And The Hawk. It begins with “I am the eagle, I live in high country in rocky cathedrals that reach to the sky,” and ends with “And reach for the heavens and hope for the future and all that we can be, and not what we are.” It’s a short song but, for me, quite moving, a naturalist’s prayer perhaps.

The American eagle (technically, the Bald Eagle) is the quintessential iconic symbol of the United States, serving as our national bird and often presented as a representation of American power and strength, especially military power. However, Americans historically have been among the world’s great consumers, rapaciously taking everything that was available and often leaving nothing to continue delivering the seemingly endless cornucopia of plenty to which most Americans have become accustomed.

So it is that the history of the national bird is fraught with slaughter, although other factors contributed to the decline in North America from 300,000 to 500,000 estimated population in the early 18th century to only 412 nesting pairs in the 1950s. According to Wikipedia, factors in the decimation included habitat destruction, shooting (legal and otherwise), power-line electrocution, collisions in flight, oil/lead/mercury/pesticide pollution, and by human and predator intrusion at nests. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bald_eagle Perhaps fittingly, a Yahoo or Google search for “American eagle” takes you to shopping websites.

The good news is that once DDT was banned and bald eagles were legally protected, the  population of these spectacular creatures recovered. Today they may be found throughout the United States and Canada. Alaska, in particular, has a robust population of bald eagles and tourists there are always excited to see them. So it was when we took my two grandsons on an Alaska Inside Passage cruise in 2017. One of the highlights of that extraordinary experience was a tour on a fishing boat that stopped at an island owned, we were told, by Native Americans and whose eagle population was thriving. The mates on the boat had some fish to share with the eagles who were most responsive to the bounty thrown into the water. Here is a small sample of what we saw.

 

Saved the best for last: