Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Is that a bald eagle taking a bath? Yes!

Sometimes you can hardly believe your eyes. I was talking on the phone and I saw what looked like a large bird in the distance across the channel, sipping water, splashing and bathing -- except this bird looked like it had a big white head. Could that be an eagle? I shoved the phone in my pocket, got my binoculars and looked. Indeed, it was a bald eagle, on a half-submerged log, splashing like crazy in the water as though it were a robin in a birdbath. I got out my camera and didn't get a good splashing picture, but here's the bald eagle. The leisurely bath went on for about ten minutes and then the eagle flew away. There are eagles nesting in those cottonwoods across the channel and we see one or two eagles almost daily.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The 6 a.m. Otter Show

I don't usually wake up at 5:30 but this morning I was wide awake and figured I might as well go up and get the Sunday paper and work the crossword. As I was strolling along the walkway I could see Bruce in the distance, stopped. I looked to the right of him and could see movement. I realized it was a family of otters. They were in and out of the water, scampering over the water pipe and the walkway float logs. I could see them looking up stretching their necks checking Bruce out. We both stood and watched -- me, maybe five minutes and then they were gone. Bruce said they started out right on the walkway and at one point he saw the mom take the baby down and show it how to get a crawfish and the baby came up with a crawfish and ate it. There was a mom and three young. I didn't get a photo this morning but they are probably this same otter family I have been seeing as I paddle.

First thing out my door I had seen a heron hunched over walking on a log in the backwater and as I write this there are carp splashing in the water below my window.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Violet-green swallows: here yesterday, gone today

I had four boxes for violet-green swallows at my other house. Dave Fouts said he thought I could get them to nest here on the houseboat and showed me where to put a box. I bought one at Audubon and hung it last year -- but, no swallows. This year, though, they nested. Here is a baby the day before they fledged. I saw three of them in the box the previous day, their little faces and beaks awaiting the parent bringing food.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The river as blues metaphor: Eric Burdon and The Animals

Now that I live on the river, I find myself drawn to river metaphors. Last Friday I went -- upriver -- to Portland's annual Waterfront Blues Festival. It's a four-day festival, but I specifically went Friday to hear Eric Burdon -- whom I'd seen 50 years ago on the Ed Sullivan Show when I was 15. I knew he'd continued to be a fine and evolving bluesman and I wanted to experience that.

I was especially taken by a song he sang, "River is Rising," which I assumed was an old Negro spiritual. The lyrics go, "The river is rising/Carry me away to another world" and I took that to be metaphorical in a lot of ways, one of which might have led to freedom on the other side, or drowning in a rising river and being carried to heaven, or some other thought.

I liked the songs he sang and I went and bought his new CD, also riverine, called "'Til Your River Runs Dry." Imagine my surprise to discover that "Rising" is a new song written by him, Tony Braunagel/Jon Cleary. There's another song on the disc that he wrote called "Water."

In an interview Eric gave to Oregonian writer Curt Schulz he said, "I am still a Geordie kid whose grandfather worked the coal mines. The experience of the youth revolution is always within me, as well. All of these experiences add layers to who we are, but they don't strip away what we've been through or where we came from.... Blues people I've known seem to be born with an old soul. It makes sense that those of us who feel the blues, live the blues and breathe the blues tend to grow old gracefully."

On Sunday Mavis Staples sang a powerful rendition of one of my favorite spirituals (especially as danced by the Alvin Ailey troupe), "Wade in the Water." Amen.