Thursday, March 10, 2011

Walking with Ozzie

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As soon as Ozzie and I left the house, we could hear Canada Geese. Making our way from under tree cover, we could see numerous V's of the birds cruising over the open lowlands surrounding the Crawfish River. For an older golden retriever, Ozzie showed a youthful eagerness, pulling at the leash as we approached the entrance to Faville Grove Conservancy, a combination of restored prairie habitat and working farmland. According to my friend Donna, this has been Ozzie's favorite place for a walk since puppyhood.

The road, seldom used in early March, divided dormant farm fields and prairie parcels named for people like Martin, Scott, and Tillotson. I watched a Northern Harrier survey from above; a towering, lone grand oak stood sentinel a half-mile off. Then the sounds of Sandhill Cranes--an odd mix of a witch's cackle and a kitten's purr--met our ears. A dozen dark forms stood on the road ahead in the distance. Ozzie and I paused and let the cranes see us, organize, and make their departure without being rushed. Their voices were constant, as if conferring with each other as they lifted off the ground and turned smoothly toward the still partially-frozen river.  streamdscn0399

As a young girl, I wondered what beauty was to be found in seemingly plain, brown fields such as these. I couldn't understand why my parents treasured early spring walks before anything was blooming or even the slightest bit green. Today, the sun warmed this big red dog and me as I walked with my jacket unzipped, absorbing the smells of thawing soil and sounds of early spring in serene contentment. Now, I could imagine myself returning in summer to take in these prairies' glory, see bluebird families filling each birdhouse, and stand poised by the river's edge, its rippling current unencumbered and inviting.

Now limping slightly, Ozzie finds a good patch of snow and nose first, hindquarters last, flops down and takes a luxurious roll, over and over, eyes closed and snorting happily, his big paws paddling. I smile and close my eyes too, sun on my face, and breathe in the beginnings of spring.

Nina Cheney
Eagle Optics Staff
Binoculars: Bring them. See what they bring you.

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