Well, I didn't win this month's First Friday competition! (The winning story, was, indeed, deserving of the honor.) As one of my chefs during my ill-advised tour through cooking school would say, "Too bad, so sad!" And also, "There's no crying in cooking." And by extension, nor in writing.
My consolation is that the interwebz is a place where any loser with delusions of talent can post any ole thing while hunkered down in Mom's basement in his/her underwear. (For the record, right now I'm hunkered down in place I pay for myself, with a Yellow-throated Warbler at my peanut feeder and jeans and a comfy sweatshirt over my underwear.)
And here's my story. Because I have to do something with it! Amusez-vous bien.
Ed loved birds before he loved me, and he taught me to love them too. I started my life list the day we met. He proposed to me the morning I saw my first Lazuli Bunting. And we've celebrated every anniversary with a Big Day, often dragging our reluctant children along.
Now our life lists are in the thousands, and the children are complaining about our Big Days again.
"You're not supposed to drive at night, remember?"
"We're only out a little before sunrise, dear. "
"But how will we find you if something happens?"
Even some of our birder friends have started up with these lectures. Ed thinks they're just jealous.
But we'd never give up our special day, not with so much left to see. This morning, Ed took me to Santiago Oaks, just as we'd planned: our first Big Day started here, long before it became a park. "Our big day will always be a Big Day," Ed said, squeezing my hand. "Happy anniversary."
We started on the rim of a gorgeous ravine. Phainopeplas swooped overhead, and a few feet down the ravine, brilliant flashes of blue shot through the brush: my favorites!
“Ed, look! Lazuli Buntings!”
Ed aimed his camera down the ravine. “Will you look at that. Bill’s going to be awful jealous when he sees my shots of these little guys.” He stepped off the trail.
“It’s not that far; I just need to get a bit closer for this shot.”
“But look how steep it is!”
“Claire, I know what I’m—DAMN!”
I heard gravel and dry twigs giving way under his feet, and instinctively, I reached out and grabbed his wrist. But Ed’s a lot bigger than me, and we both tumbled into the brush.
Somehow, we both managed to make it back up to the trail, with Ed cursing the whole time. “My camera! Damned lens is cracked! And no one will fix this model anymore!”
“Sweetheart, it’s okay.”
He looked at me and smiled. “Of course it is, dear. At least we found those Lazulis. I don’t even need to go down there; look how bold they are.”
The Lazuli Buntings were now in the bushes right off the trail, just uphill from us. They didn’t seem to notice as we approached them. We moved closer. The Lazulis flitted about, oblivious to our presence.
We sat on a flat rock just across the trail from them and watched, mesmerized. I didn’t even need my binoculars to get a close look at them—every wingbeat, every tiny twitch and flutter was crystal-clear. We no longer cared if our Big Day count stayed in the single digits.
“Wow,” Ed said softly, “It doesn’t get any better than this, does it?”
From where he was facing, Ed couldn’t see the startled hikers pointing down the ravine, the ranger yelling into his walkie-talkie, or the paramedics struggling to carry two stretchers down the hillside. But I think he knew.
“No, sweetheart,” I said. “It doesn’t.”