No better day

It got cold enough this morning for me to awaken and pull a blanket up over me. The night was just changing from dark to gray. I couldn’t get back to sleep, so I got up, ate breakfast, and decided to go walk at Great Meadows. It was five forty-five; I kissed Carol and left.

The moon, a couple of days past full, hung bright in the blue sky. It was higher than the sun. I stood on the dike in between the mud flats and cattails and pools of water looking at the swarms of sandpipers and plovers. Everything — mud, plants, birds, trees in the distance, one small puffy cloud, moon — could be seen with utmost clarity in the early sunlight and the cool dry air. Nothing seemed far away, not even the moon, which faded and sank towards the horizon as the sun rose higher. I turned my attention only to what was there, no stray thoughts or nagging memories of things I had to do, nothing existed but for marsh and birds and sky above and trees in the distance.

By nine, other people appeared, some with binoculars and some with cameras. Two men carried big cameras mounted on tripods, with huge lenses mounted on the cameras. They stopped to photograph a snipe that was less than a hundred feet from the path, poking its long bill into the mud. I talked idly with another birder. He said he wished he had worn long pants. I said it had been downright cold when I first arrived, even when I was standing in the sun, and there had been a chilly breeze from the north-northwest.

I walked along the old railroad embankment through the woods, and heard a the plaintive whistle of a Wood-Peewee: pee-ah-wheee. Back in the sun along the mud flats and cattails, the land had warmed up enough that anything seen through binoculars at a long distance shimmered from rising heat. But it was still chilly in the shade. Birds started up and flew madly in all directions, a dark shape twisted and turned just above the tops of the cattails: a Northern Harrier cruised over the marsh, hunting for breakfast.

On the way out, I ran into Dad. We went and got sandwiches and sat outside on a bench overlooking the river to eat them. The shadows moved around us, and finally I said I had to stand up. We had been sitting and talking for the better part of two hours, not conscious of the time going by. There can be no better kind of day than that.

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