Saturday, September 21, 2013


It's a natural experience, living at the Oregon Coast, to see birds of all sorts on any given day.

It becomes such a part of the daily routine to share this space with pelicans, gulls, herons, egrets, geese, killdeer, cormorants, mergansers and kingfishers that I imagine at times I am obblivious to them as I go about my day. . . .

But how quick I can be to notice when something si not quite right with one of them. . . .

. Walking the foggy shrouded beach yesterday we were drawn immediately to a lone cormorant in the distanc. grounded at the surf's shifting edge. The distinctive shape unmistakable.

I think I knew instantly that something was not right. There are rarely lone cormorants with no others in sight. They rarely occupy the beach, choosing instead the rocks and old pier poles of the bay where they can dry their wings and rest while watching the water for small fish to pass by.

Approaching this cormorant, it was now a certainty that it was not ok. I won't go into the entire episode of my interaction hut, it was clear after one slow approach that I was not going to get close to it. I left it alone and walked to a driftwood log to sit and watch it awhile. A few minutes later, as two young boys emerged from the fog and ran towards it, it DID manage to fly using both wings. . . . but only a foot or so off the ground and it would just go far enough to get away from the kids, then land and again stay to the surf line on it's feet.  Occasionally it would swim out, dive under the surf and pop up again a few feet out, only to return with the next swell. . .

Now, cormorants are amazing swimmers so this one wasn't likely "land-locked" by the waves. .  and they are even more prolific fishing birds. Around here, the local fisherman got permission to start a program (as it is Coho salmon season) to "scare" the cormorants away from salmon runs. They use fireworks known sometimes as bird-bangers or bird rockets, to frighten them away. . . heaven forbid the birds might get more fish than the "sport fishermen" before the run is cut off.

Eventually, we had to move on and get back to our work day in the studio. . .  the last scene in my mind was looking back at that vast open expanse of foggy beach and there, with no other creatures in sight, was the lone cormorant. Standing at the surfs edge. . . my heart was so torn.

I can only hope that the cormorant was just stunned by something like the bird-scaring fireworks and was able to soon rejoin the routine of it's flock. It is amazing how one lone bird, struggling in any way in it's environment, can touch me so deeply.  The ocean never looked bigger or more daunting than it did in comparison to that one cormorant.

I know we all find aspects of animal behaviour that pull us closer to a certain breed or species. For me, with cormorants, it is the way they dry their wings after swimming. Yes, they actually dry them. Though it is still quite a debate as to why they dry them or exactly what purpose the drying serves. . .

They dive from the surface, though many species make a characteristic half-jump as they dive, presumably to give themselves a more streamlined entry into the water. Under water they propel themselves with their feet. Some cormorant species have been found to dive to depths of as much as 120 feet. After fishing, cormorants go ashore, and are frequently seen holding their wings out in the sun. All cormorants have preen gland secretions that are used ostensibly to keep the feathers waterproof. Some sources state that cormorants have waterproof feathers while others say that they have water permeable feathers. 

If you have never seen this particular behaviour of a cormorant, I've included an image below. . . that posture, often held for a few minutes at a time, is what  am so drawn to with cormorants. It is something my soul recognizes as being truly divine.

In silhouette at a distance, or close up, it is unmistakable. . .  to see a dozen or more of these magnificent birds in a leafless tree with many of them spreading their wings out like that . . . holding them in that pose. . . it is impossible not to be in awe.

I don't know why I wanted to write this today.  Some things just stick with us I suppose.  Its hard to shake the image of that one bird. Alone on that vast shore. Which is, of course, exactly how I see us all in essence.  It's just our nature. . .

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Small Town Vignette #1

There are so many things I absolutely love about living, by choice, in a little town of 800.  Some are expected given the size and some are random, it-could-only-happen-here, sort of events.

Across the street from my studio windows is an old fashioned Barber Shop with the old fashioned moving red, white and blue striped barber pole in the window. The woman who owns it is always very busy the five days a week she is open. Almost all old timer's and retirees are her clientele. It's a rarity to see her chair empty though.

Awhile back she was closed for months during a series of chemo treatments for cancer. When she returned the turnout was beautiful. . . all her old clients returned and business is, from where I sit, good.

Just the other day we noticed a new addition beside the barber shop. Built by her husband to look like and old style, blue and white phone booth, it is a little booth with a seat in it and the sign, instead of "Telephone" says, "Cell Phone Booth"

I love this for several reasons.

One, it's just a great way to say, "take your calls outside please!" without it being confrontational or rude. Seriously, I am so grateful to live in a place where the majority of people scrunch up their face and shake their heads when someone is using a cellphone inside a business. Personally, I have, for some time now, had it with the need for people to be "connected" 24-7 in every store and in every place of business. And I applaud any business that will draw that line and say, "Not in here"

But more than that I love the fact that, without a doubt in our town, there was no permit process or debate over whether this little addition was ok or not just off the public sidewalk. No sign zoning or city ordinance to deal with. Though it is quite possible a deal was made for volunteer hours or a donation.

The point is that I love being in a place where people are left to do as they wish (within limits) and that there is still room for a little ingenuity and originality and it doesn't cost you to do it at every turn. Occasionally this means having to deal with the guy who has a fire-pit and a couple of beat up couches on his lawn for his weekend loving, classic rock, beer drinking soirees. Even that becomes endearing in it's own way. . .

This little fishing town is changing as it turns it's collective eye to tourism a bit more but, in the meantime, I will enjoy the small things like that cell phone booth and celebrate the fact that places still exist where nothing much changes but, when it does, it isn't always necessary to fill out an application and apply for permission for it to change.