Sunday, October 31, 2010

Time to go

I put in for a short trip, a mind clearing trip, a reminder of what lies outside the walls.

There is some wind and for a while, when I am in the east marsh, it is strong and in my face. Wind barely shows on the surface of the water in the east marsh, nothing more than ripples no bigger than those that the dabbling of fingers causes. Wind, in the marsh, is told by the cattails, bending all in the same direction and twisting in their wind driven flutter, slapping and rubbing against each other to create the soft rustle.

And then, whatever it is that binds up inside me is gone, and it is time to go.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The First Buffleheads

I start in Portage Bay and head as direct as one can to the north end of Union Bay. It is a partly cloudy day but when the sun is out it, it is out with all of its might.

I spot the first bufflehead of the fall just north of #1 island. There is a male and a female, but the male flies off, so I don't think that they were paired.

I spot a coopers hawk in the osprey tree. As I head east, I see a bald eagle, some 600 yards off, sitting on the peak of a boat house, its white head a tiny speck out of place on a background of dark green.In the NE lagoon, the ducks leave as I enter, as they always do, but a red tailed hawk stays for awhile. Feathers in the water show that something has been eaten in the last few hours, probably by one of the eagles.

As I go down through the east marsh towards the channel that rounds the burial island, I spot a second pari of buffleheads. These two fly off in close formation.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cabin Fever

A cold kept me indoors for way too long and I get to watch the last of this falls first storm drift off just as I get well enough to go out. Today brings a beautiful morning with the sunlight strong, coming through the clearest of air.

I paddle north up the big lake into a wind of five miles per hour, or so. I use a new paddle, an ottertail design made from Alaskan yellow cedar and painted with a very detailed map of the marsh. The small Clark's grebes are still in the big lake. Buffleheads have not arrived as I would usually find some here in the shallows.
When I get into the south lagoon, I find that gadwalls and widgeons have returned. There are also several northern shovelers, a spectacular duck, and I find a hooded merganser tucked in with a small group of wood ducks.

Having been inside for so long, I bask in the fall sunlight because today, it is not like sitting in the sun. The trees have changed colors and the marsh is no longer a green place. It is a stirring of all of the earth tones, all of the water colors. And with the migrating birds, it is more alive than any other time of the year. It is the very definition of vivid.
While I explore around the edges of the workbench lodge, a green backed heron flies past. I always think, when I see one, how it seems that flight was an afterthought. It is awkward and incorrect in its shape when flying. This one, however, is wonderful in color and it stays near, but always safely behind some brush, and we eye each other for several minutes.

Monday, October 11, 2010


I put in on Lake Union and shoot some documentary stuff around the dry docks. Then, it is a leisurely lazy downwind paddle, thinking and observing, but not about anything coherent enough to make me dig my notebook out from my pack.When I get into to Portage Bay, the sky changes so that the sun is now more common than the clouds and I paddle upwind into a bright shimmer. It is here, paddling the front edge of the houseboat regatta, that I wonder about the great beaver tales that I have heard from my few houseboat friends. They are stories that make it sound as if 70 and 80 pound beavers roam the docks, stealing candy from children and purses from old ladies. While I do believe that there are a few around, what is noticeably missing from the picture are signs. Houseboats and marinas have decked the shoreline where shipyards don't stand. So, there is little vegetation, and what there is just doesn't show the gnawings that would be there if great herds of beaver wandered the pristine nature of the houseboat neighborhoods. What there is would not sustain more than a few industrious beaver. Compare this to the east marsh, where perhaps 20 beaver live and the difference is glaringly obvious. Sit in the eat marsh and look in any direction and almost every tree is gnawed or gnarled into a bonsai of beaver origins. The houseboats might be living on the lake, but a natural experience it is not.

A half dozen Clark's grebes are still in the crossing under place. Some have laid there heads on their backs for an afternoon nap.
It is quiet in the south lagoon and I don't stop to write and I don't stop to take out my camera because I prefer to watch the gnarled trees and cattails and lily pads go by in a slow motion that my mind is creating. When I stop, it is just before I take out, and let the wind push me about, absorbing the view that I have over the bow of the canoe. I have been here so many times and it is all new to me.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


It rained all night and morning is heavy with clouds and humidity. The big lake is about as smooth as it ever gets, too large to have a mirror surface except on the rarest of days, it has taken on the appearance of old wavy window glass.
Now that October is here, it won't be long until the large long necked western grebes show up, but today all of the distant long necks silhouetted by the water belong to cormorants. They returned about 2 weeks ago.

In the marsh, the cattails have started to yellow and what has been a summer wall of green is now variegated in uneven vertical and swaying stripes. The big lodge shows signs of fall. The beaver have left deep bold trails running from the water to the top of the lodge. They have also left large peeled limbs, sometimes 3 or 5 inches thick. Fall is home repair and by winter, this already large house will be a few inches taller.

"So it goes" comes to mind, a phrase from one of Kurt Vonnegut's novels. Odd that something like that should pop into my mind while in the marsh, but people the world over are bickering about details without any grasp of the whole picture. Yet, the marsh retains its sanity.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Nothing Happened Today

Nothing happened on my portage to the big lake

Nothing happened when I walked through the greenest of grass and tucked under the cypress tree

Nothing happened as I passed the western red cedar where the ground is bare earth except for iridescent moss

Nothing happened on the paved switchbacks where the sun filters through summer leaves that are staring at the coming fall

Nothing happened on the shore of the big lake where the smallest of waves slap the sand under the warmth of the sun

Nothing happened as I paddled north one thousand, two thousand strokes on the bluest of water, my right side in the glow of the sun and my left in the long cool shadow of fall

Nothing happened when I saw the first tiny long necked grebe of this fall

Nothing happened at the big lodge where the kingfisher perched over the tracks and branches that mark home repairs for the beaver

Nothing happens when I stop on the edge of the beaver forest, my entry barred by low water, but my view allowed to pass

Nothing happens when I turn to see the nicest man watching me and we talk about stuff for 20 minutes.

Nothing has returned my spirit to its proper place