Friday, March 11, 2011

The Fall of the Osprey Tree

On the Casa del Taco Portage - When I have my head in a book, is is most often a factual journey for me, whether the book is fact or fiction. It is with my face in a map that my imagination runs. I look at the lines, the geographic code (that many never figure out) and imagine the appearance, the comings and goings, where the game crosses a creek or where I might pitch a tent.

The NE Lagoon (aka Yesler Swamp)

As I portage northward toward the bay, I reach a place where I can look down from some 350 feet and see, a mile distant, the cattail islands in the NW corner. #1 Island merges with the north shore, its north channel obscured by cattails and rushes, but #2 stands out, a ring of clear water around it. From here I can see the oddly angled shape of its shorelines, which I recently surveyed and then put down in ink. I can see the brushy alders and willows in the center of the island and I no longer need to imagine what is there. I know that the ground has been trampled by the low bodies and webbed hind feet of several beaver who come there during the winter to feed on bark. Looking at a map and then going to that place is so different than going to the place and then making a map of it. I can't say that one or the other is better. But, they are, satisfyingly, different.

I set out from the east end of the ancient portage meeting a light rain and stiffening breeze as I reach the shore. I need to see the marsh today to see what changed in the storms of the last few days. I find a 8 foot square floating dock section wedged into the break of Broken Island. It came from a long ways off as I would recognize it if it came from inside the bay. I let the wind blow me up the west channel, watching the scene pass by without effort. It is, still, crazy time for the Canada geese. There are also many herons about, but they are well scattered and instead of standing at the waters edge, they are back 5 or 10 feet in the cattails. The water is a few more inches higher than my last trip and a few of my survey stations are now just submerged.

The Osprey Tree

As I drift in on #1 island, I notice that the 40 mph gusts of yesterday have brought the top half of the osprey tree to the ground. It is a familiar landmark, on a corner of land that I must pass by regularly. One summer, an osprey used it for a perch, until a winter storm broke off the perch. But, the name stuck and the landmark still remains although the silhouette has changed and the tree no longer meets an osprey's needs. I suppose that, in years to come, the silhouette will finally disappear, but somehow, the landmark will remain.

When I get to the north point
, I find that the two dead snags that I used in my survey have both crumpled, breaking at their bases. One has fallen into the water. I stop in the NE lagoon and return back the way I came, but continue into the south lagoon.
The high water lets me work my way through the fissures in the cattails, exploring areas that I have not seen for 5 months. The wind has even moved the moving cattail island some, although the water is not yet high enough to really set it in motion, but I can tell.

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