Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Wilbo Listens to the Music & Counts Cormorants on Lake Muskegon.

September is what summer created. We begin to harvest many crops in September. Along the Lakeshore Trail, fox grapes have turned to purple, small grapes that grow on inconvenient vines, vines that take over fences and trees alike. The poke weed will have purple berries on a series of spikes, and the spikes are growing the clusters in white. Not worth a darn for the dinner table or the pie filling; the leaves are edible if boiled a few times. The elderberry will have tiny purple berries in a round cluster soon. The berries are now small and greenish-white. 

Two older men with canes are pushing a baby carriage with a toddler seated, a young girl talking in a sunny, delighted way, and the two talk about a cousin who makes sand cherry jam. The toddler is going to love this trail when she can bike along it herself. What one sows is what one reaps, and that's a nice future to anticipate, a generation that grew up on the trail. Up on the ridge, some fellow in a house on the cliffs has his speakers blaring, "Black Magic Woman" by Santana. I love this place for the distractions. The lake and sky have enough blue to bring my gaze back.

That blue is a sign that our sun still favors the northern hemisphere. Last night, I saw the sun set due west of my location. On the evening of the summer solstice, I saw the sun set on the north breakwater of Muskegon harbor, midway between base and tip. The sun doesn't rise as high as the sun rose in June, and yet it still can color our sky a deep, moving shade of blue. The blue sky of January is a pale, Robin's eggshell blue, and there's too much blue today for me to imagine January, when all this hue has leached out.

"Burning Down The House" wowed me when I heard the album first in 1984. Now, I want to burn down the house where the owner plays it loudly enough to disturb my idyll. The carols from the bell tower, McGraw Congregational Church on Ruddiman Creek, have ceased, a delight that I miss now the Doobie Brothers exhort me to "Listen to the Music". As if I had a choice.

Last night on the pier, I studied a cormorant up close as the black bird ascended to fly over the pier. I could see a smile on its face, as if a cartoonist had painted a face on the bird. Then it descended to the water level and made off in a southerly direction. The cormorants fly low, as if cruise missiles seeking a target, zooming under the radar. It's pretty rare to see a cormorant flying alone. I think I see a flock of them one hundred yards to the northeast of me, perching on a series of posts jutting out of open water. A flight of three went off on a mission to the west. I'm buying binoculars because fierce cormorants are cool to watch, best when territory is threatened. The aggressive peak predator will take over wooded islands and upchuck a white lime barf over intruders. On Lake Erie, the birds are numerous, and fishermen resent how a cormorant can dive for fish and stress a fishery. On the islands near Pelee populations have to be controlled by coating eggs with oil or shaking eggs to ruin yolks. I wouldn't mind a cormorant omelette.

A flight of two has flown north.

Will Juntunen

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