A pair of mallards greeted me as I stood on the brow of the Red River bank and examined the far shore for any signs of animal life. They wing their way above the course of the river 20 feet above the water, muttering something or other to each other; perhaps instructions to land, which they do shortly off to my right. There seems to be nothing much to notice about them for the time being. They are simply going about their businesses, feeding or resting.
As I settle myself in my woolly chair I think that perhaps the current of the river will float them on by me, if I keep one eye on the river. Shall I expect such cooperation?
I am sitting under one of those dark and light skies, that doesn’t promise me any one thing. It just says, You take your chances.”
At the moment a fairly large dark cloud is passing over me. I did have the foresight today to take an umbrella with me, so perhaps I can withstand a little discomfort, if I don’t mind getting my legs wet.
It is rather interesting to experience weather changing. A light breeze rustles the willow saplings and a young red maple near me as the big cloud hovers above this spot. But it is only a suggestion of a breeze, and then the leaves grow still, as the big cloud begins to dissipate. The clouds have been moving from east to west, which seems a bit unusual. The air is pleasant.
Suddenly the two mallards wing their way down the course of the river from right to left about 10 feet above the surface of the river, cooperating beautifully with my request for their return across my line of vision. They fly totally silently this time, and disappears from sight to my left. Thank you.
Almost immediately three Cooper’s hawks appear in the sky directly above me, sailing about on the updrafts just above the trees. They wing about me leisurely for several minutes, perhaps hunting for food, giving me a chance to study them in my glasses. How effortlessly they sail about. I have seem them above me on other days. Do they like hunting in these wooded areas? Do they nest nearby?
Generations. This pairing up of creatures and sprouting of seeds on trees at this time of year has set me to thinking a lot this past week about generations. Over the years I have spent a lot of effort trying to fix my time lines onto nature.
All of these days and weeks and months and seasons and hours and minutes mean nothing to nature. They are all inventions of humans to try to corral nature into some kind of order to fit the limited human mind.
Generations. That’s what I must learn more about. This great willow, 24 inches in diameter, which has fallen in my time, and lies before me now, this willow’s birth and growth and life and old age and falling, and many, many years from now, its final dissolution into the soil beneath it as compost — there is one generation that began long before me and will end long after I am dead and gone.
Chickadee sings to me. It is time for me to go. First raindrops come.
James Alger, who lives in Fargo, N.D., has been a summer resident of the Leech Lake area with his family for over 45 years. Over that time he has grown to love and appreciate the people and the woodlands of this area.