This afternoon the kids and I seized what may be the last great day of fall (please no) and set out on our bikes to explore the Leslie Street Spit. This route has been a constant in our lives with each of the kids remembering their first summit of the lighthouse hill by their own steam. Number three hit that goal last spring and now seems ever ready to prove that he’s still got it in him.
Today’s trip however was about closing a circle. Over the past six or so months or eldest has been doing her best to convert all of us to her love of ornithology and slowly over time she has done just that. Today we set off to visit the cormorant nesting ground for the first time since the fledglings set forth, our first chance to walk among the trees they so recently called home.
As late as September males could be seen diligently making the flight from one side of the spit to the other gathering the materials needed to maintain the nest while mothers squawked loudly for their return. Today we were finally able to walk among the remains of their homes to pick through the nests and corpses and bones this mating season has left behind.
We saw the remains of food brought to babes in the nest and whole nests fallen from their high perches, hopefully long after their inhabitants had moved on. There were the remains of predator and prey alike littered among the fallen sticks and at times the magnitude of the corpses was too much for our bird lover to bear.
As we pushed back past the night heron nests (far tidier by comparison) and returned to our bikes it was clear that everyone felt the power of the gift we’d been given by being able to walk among their lives. Like a house frozen in time you could feel the birds around you; hear their voices calling across the land. Even empty that space was never silent as it displayed it’s life in stark relief on the ground.
Returning to the path we struck out for a little lookout from which we had one seen a gorgeous egret standing tall in front of the far bank. Today he was elsewhere but just as we set back the older boy found a tuft of feathers and beside them a hollow wing bone and an owl pellet. Bikes down.
Slowly working our way through the pellet we found mammalian teeth, both front and molars, leg bones of something with a well articulated double bone structure and tens of shards of incomplete bones all bound in the softest, finest feathers. Holding out one of the feathers, carefully flattening it out to it’s full length and width we nodded at each other silently, not wanting to alert the toddler that not all eggs end well.
Back on our bikes we circled the pond and headed for the metal bridge that divides the waters near the centre. Today only geese dotted the surface but the light was perfect and we paused to find each other’s spotted shapes in the sky. The winged shoes of Hermes seemed far fetched, but no, there they were along with a man in a pointed hat and birds and boats galore.
Riding back as the sun set I marvelled at this park, these kids and the way it feels when you get one right. This parenting gig is never easy but it is only through learning from the difficulties that we grow to know ourselves and our kids. Today with its late start and trip to the library before a hearty lunch, the ride, dinner and a movie was no accident. This is a day crafted to fit us. It fed our interests and our hearts. It worked in time to be alone and move at our own pace, time to sit together and share. It favoured each of us in turn which allowed us to cheer each other on.
These days are no mistake. They are the result of me picking through the bones of all the days before, carefully cataloguing the successes and the failures, piecing together our needs until it seems like second nature. When this movie ends they will read with Peter (the wonder of the internet!) then I’ll tuck them in knowing this was a good one and I’ll set to work picking through the bones of the day, rebuilding before we start again.