This summer, aside from hosting waves of family who treat us to lobster (yum, but am thinking just salads now) and beating back waves of bugs (worst insect season in decades, right?), I’ve been having a genuine outdoors summer: either in the garden, or off in quiet places where I hear only trees, or writing about the outdoors and … bald eagles.
So, in no particular order, I’d like to share some northern summer: my garden, outdoor haunts, and a bald eagle conversation. (Wishing you special tree noise places.)
(Narrator Patton in an excerpt from Deadly Trespass, due out this fall: find 1st three chapters, here.
I didn’t see the deer carcass on the far side of the beaver dam until a bald eagle landed on it and picked at it. Each jab of his curved beak brought up something red and stringy. He may have been eating, but his intense yellow eyes tracked every move I made.
He wasn’t bald. White feathers overlapped his head and cascaded around his shoulders in a fashionable shag haircut. His feet looked like bright yellow rain boots with knives at each toe. I had a flash of a James Bond movie where sharp, lethal objects snap out of everyday objects and kill people. A bit of white brow sagged over each eye, gathering darkness into his stare.
I reached down to scratch my ankle, and he swiveled his head almost 180 degrees until both eyes locked onto mine—eyes so close across his narrow skull they didn’t even look cross-eyed. They just looked like the most intelligent, pissed off person I’ve ever seen. The huge bird had eyes that didn’t blink, not even when I sat on a log and hung my feet over the edge of the dam into the pond. Not even when I pulled off my shirt, dragged it in pond water, and put it back on wet.
The eagle was offering a serious inquisition from a top predator to someone lower and more lackluster in the food chain. I felt like I was about to get arrested, so I thought about being polite. That looks tasty. Bet that’s something yummy the boy who lives here left you. Don’t worry about me. I’ve got a granola bar.
No closer. I already spared you once when you arrived.
Got it. You on personal terms with the boy?
I watch him. He watches me. He leaves me meat when he finds it on the road.
You can vouch for him?
How many humans of any age can do what the boy does?
The eagle and I watched a beaver rise from the pond and slap its tail on the water—a warning to his family about outsiders. I shifted on my log perch wondering if these beavers were safe. I’d heard it took about eight minutes for a beaver to drown in a trap—maybe in front of its frantic mate.
I watched it carve a smooth water trail with a swinging tail until it dove back into the pond. The eagle ripped off more red pieces, and I turned toward him. Did you know beavers mate for life? Even I wasn’t good at that.
Death will come when it will come.
Oh, great. An eagle spouting a line from Shakespeare. OK. OK. So far, my only real trapping experience has been my dog bloodied in a trap and now thinking about how that beaver might die. It’s too much.
Too much what? Too much red tooth and claw?
The eagle ripped more flesh and gave it a slight toss so he could catch it in the air. Tooth and claw everywhere. Your kind doesn’t even eat what it kills.
He buried his head in the carcass, and I turned my face into the sun, feeling the edge of cool as shadows grew longer over the pond. At the sound of a rough engine, the bird grabbed a stringy chunk and struggled to lift it and himself into the air.
Sandy’s novel “Deadly Trespass, A Mystery in Maine,” was a recent finalist in the Maine Literary Awards, a recipient of a Mystery Writers of America national award, a national finalist in the Women’s Fiction Writers Association “Rising Star” contest, and a runner- up in Maine’s Joy of the Pen competition. She lives in the Maine woods and says she’d rather be “fly fishing, skiing remote trails, paddling near loons, or just generally out there.” Find more info on the trailer and her website.