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November 23, 2008

Palemale in National Geographic Magazine, December 2008.

The first Long eared owl has shown up in Central Park.

Perhaps there are others and perhaps they came earlier, but as far as I know this is the first one found by Judy and friend on Sunday afternoon.

As welcomed as the owl visitors are don't for a moment think that I am too accustomed to the sight of people like you, Mr Blue Jay.

Just when I thought I made up my mind that the sound of Crows was my favorite bird's call, here comes a flock of Grackles not less that a thousand strong with their enchanting voices to sway me...

every voice announcing meaningful words to hold that wholesome group of birds together. I frustrate myself that I cannot understand their communication, but I try yet.

Then all at once with a chorused motion they rise and sweep over to their next destination without the least clumsiness and never a collision with any member of the flock. The thought that a dozen humans could barely exit a bus without incident amused me.

On Sunday afternoon I stood at the edge of Fifth Avenue and watched the quiet figure of my friend standing presently without any urgent business on his cold, unyielding nest. Yet another season for him just around the corner weighed down on me. The Sun was in my eyes as I peered through my lens to find his white chest breaking out from the top of the drab ledge which shamelessly holds up that dreadful contraption which has caused my precious friends so much disappointment. I didn‘t know what to think for him. Over the last four years I have run out of wishes and in that time I have sobered sufficiently to look skeptical at magic. As for dreaming, there is not too much left of that either.
Maybe it’s during days like these when a stiff wind rips through the air and cuts through my bones that I remind myself that this is not land for a rational man to live. At least not for me, coming from a place where 80 degrees is considered ‘nippy’. With the cold on my face and the pain in the middle of my back from my heavy gear I stared up at those rigid steel claws poised like thorns below the body of my uncomplaining friend. My eyes moved over to the tall trees along Fifth Avenue baring their leaves to display a skeletal frame without a scent. A bus passed me with great haste and unsettled my footing with its powerful wake. I continued to examine the many things around me, like the drab color of the buildings with their hermitically sealed rooms--all of which posed such a contrast to another place and another time in my life so distant now but with the magical power of thought I can be transported back to that place where those tall trees never shed their leaves with such drama as they do here and they, most of them, laden with fruit and food for a man and animal to eat for the small price of spreading the seeds as far as your feet can carry. In that place the wind was gentle and soothing and the small colorful houses always had an open door for a weary passerby.
But I won’t attempt to deceive you any further; those fruit bearing trees and colorful, welcoming houses with gentle breezes blowing their sheer curtains out of their open windows did not bring me the happiness that I have found

...when I look into these eyes. There wasn‘t anything like this on those sandy beaches and fertile soil to make me happy like I am presently.

So for the price of this happiness I must share his disappointments and acknowledge that I am helpless to change the world which is in the hands of a wise Universe which looks ahead much further than I am able to see.

But once tiny parcels of water can hold themselves into beautiful round drops on soft dry leaves, then I am certain that those powerful guardians of the Universe are awake and working.

And so I must let go of all my futile anxiety and let these powerful forces do their wholesome duty.

After all, look what happened with this little Stinker...somewhere in some little nook or cranny his egg hatched last spring with little or no drama. He came out into the world without any of my worry and as a bonus he bares no mark of human touch and is as flawless as that little raindrop on the leaf.

All images photographed on Sunday November 23, 2008.

Thanks for all the letters about the photos in National Geographic Magazine (December 2008). Please note that the copies of the magazine which are sent to subscribers is quite different than those on the newsstands. The subscription issue contains four pages of photographs but the newsstand version only has one page.