It is early morning and I watch the sun rise over the lake from a sagging settee on the sleeping porch. Our Boston Terrier, Jake
peacefully naps at my feet. As I sip my morning coffee, I watch his rhythmic breathing punctuated now and then by a twitch of his ears, a muffled yip or a brief pummeling of his legs. Maybe he dreams of chasing a squirrel or a cat. Maybe he doesn’t dream at all. I wish I knew. I wish he could tell me.
Our house is on a cove. which this morning I share only with nature’s creatures, or more accurately, they share with me. A great white heron perches on a rock, his large round body impossibly balanced on one long thin leg. A school of ducks fat from the bread we feed them paddle languidly by and assorted songbirds compete for air space. An occasional bird of prey soars overhead in search of food. Today there are only buzzards and hawks but on rare occasions, we see golden eagles. I wonder why we revere hawks and eagles, and find their buzzard relatives disgusting. I wonder if buzzards know this. I wonder if Eagles do.
The loblolly pines on the distant banks are a blue-green blur in the morning light. One by one, lights appear in houses along the shore as daybreak approaches. A lone fishing boat advances slowly from the far side of the lake, the sounds of its outboard motor growing louder as it nears. I watch it come closer, its metal hull slapping on the waves, a flag of Louisiana fluttering from a standard. It is a bass boat, rigged out for serious fisherman. Its occupants are visible now, two young men in camouflage hats and gear. Seeing me, they wave, and I wave back as they veer into the main channel of the lake, headed for the fishing grounds.
The statue-still heron on the rock cocks his head sidewise, and although I cannot see it, I know that his steely, menacing eye is intently following the movement of an unsuspecting fish below the water’s surface. He holds his preposterous pose perfectly still, patiently waiting for the right time to strike. Suddenly, and with lightning speed, his long pointed beak jabs into the water. His ambush is successful; he emerges with his prey in his beak, lifts into the sky and soars above the lake, his long neck curved backwards towards his body, legs straight behind. I watch his great wings
gracefully folding and unfolding, embracing the morning air as he glides away.
It is perfectly still in the aftermath of the kill. The only sounds are the waves lapping at the wooden bulkheads below and the chirping of a small martin warily eyeing the bird feeder in our crepe myrtle tree. The rising sun glittering on the undulating waves creates the illusion of tinsel blanketing the lake. Only the slowly escalating motion of the waves foreshadow a storm brewing in the south.
A squirrel hops effortlessly between the limbs of the sugar maples bordering the lake and disappears into the high branches of a nearby elm tree. The creatures, sensing Mother Nature’s mood about to change, disappear into their nests or hiding places. Blue-grey clouds slide in front of the sun and jagged lines of lightning, white against the darkening clouds light up the sky, followed by thunder claps, getting louder as the storm nears. Jake is suddenly on his feet and into my lap, ears back, trembling, his nap destroyed. His big brown sad eyes seem to plead with me to make it go away. I wonder why he is so afraid, and I wish I could make him understand that he’s safe.
Curtains of rain advance across the lake minutes later as the storm gathers force. The first raindrops hit the tin roof of the sleeping porch in single sharp pings. Slowly they intensify into a steady rumble. The wind has picked up now, and the lake is choppy. The rain slices at the side of the house and the wind drives it into the porch. I watch the rain pounding on the lake and wonder about the young men and their ill-fated fishing trip.
I revel in Mother Nature’s operatic performance and am loathe to give up my front row seat. I hold Jake tightly to calm him but the thunder is getting louder and he is increasingly more anxious. I cannot stay. But for this moment, I am at peace with myself, the lake and its creatures.