In May 2011, after four years of life on McNutt's Island, we moved to Montreal. This blog remains, though, as a (sort of) daily record of our time on the island, and a winding path for anyone who would like to meander about among its magical places. For additional perspectives and insights I recommend Greg's book, Island Year: Finding Nova Scotia (2010), and my Bowl of Light (2012). I'll continue to post once in a while. If you do want to read this blog, one option would be to begin at the beginning of it (which is, as we all know, in blog-world, at the end), and read forward, concluding with the most recent entry. It's a journal, really, so it does makes more sense if you read it that way. But, you know, read it any way you like.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The magicians

I climb out of my rowboat onto the dock and stare down into the water. From this perspective I can see that I have been rowing --all unknowing -- through swarming schools of tiny fish. As far as I know they don't have a name. When I asked around, people said they were just the little fish that bigger fish like to eat.

Now they turn and wheel in synchrony, quick and flowing at the same time. Their bodies flash silver as sunlight penetrates the water. But it's only for an instant, like a strobe light. The effect is of hundreds of flashing, gleaming silver shards blinking off and on as light sinks below dark rippling water. Though they appear to be, the fish are not tumbling about randomly. They are schooling in perfect formation. It's the light on their bodies that plays a trick on my eyes.

By the time I have tied the rowboat's painter to the dock and turned back to look again, they are gone without a trace. It's as if they were never there at all.

I begin my walk back to the house from the dock. It is a slow walk. An observer might think I am practicing walking meditation, I go so slowly. Instead I'm watching the warblers as they dart and flash through the bayberry bushes that line the shore and dominate the bog below the house.

I used to fret about these bushes and consult my reference books, back when I thought I could learn the names of everything. They seemed bayberry-ish, but lacked that essential element, berries. Now I see that the tiny waxy berries disappear down tiny warbler gullets and into tiny warbler bellies. They will pick these bayberry bushes nearly clean, carbo-loading for their upcoming marathon.
They are masters of the now-you-see-it-now-you-don't-school of performance art. They hide, and flit, and dart, and there are so many different varieties of them. I stare and stare, trying to distinguish the different warblers that the birding lists tell me come through here on their way south for the winter: Palm, Black and White, Common Yellow Throat, Northern Parula, so many others.

But they are too quick for me. Their colours are various, too, and subtle: now and then there's an impressionist's brushstroke of cream, a flash of yellow, a gleam of gold. For a moment I am able to let go of my need to know their names. When I look at them from this perspective they are magical.

Image of the Northern Parula from Birds of Nova Scotia, courtesy Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History

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