As a bridgetender, I spend days, weeks, years looking at the same view. I’ve learned that sunrises are like snowflakes in that no two are alike. I’ve seen that many animals have a phenomenal inner clock, going about their routines on a daily basis at EXACTLY the same time. And even here in Florida where we don’t really have dramatic seasons to speak of, I see them clearly with the migration patterns.
Here in Jacksonville, we get manatees coming through in the summer, and baby gators hatch in August, “barking” all night long. Canada Geese swim by, with their babies in an organized line at the same time every day, throughout the spring. I count them, and when they loose one to a gator, I mourn with them.
One year we got a solitary swan. He (or she) stayed for several days, drawing crowds. It’s not something you normally see in this neck of the woods, and I kept wondering “Where is its mate?” Just as abruptly as it arrived, one day it was gone.
We also see nutrias and otters, cormorants and a bald eagle that fishes in the area. One day an armadillo crossed the bridge and walked right into the tenderhouse. When he discovered that there was no way out, he did an abrupt u-turn and went on about his way, ignoring me completely.
We also get a blue heron who likes to stand in the middle of the street at 3 a.m, munching on eels. And blue herons let out a blood curdling scream that I’ll never get used to as long as I live.
There is a black-coated night heron who sits below our window all night, every night, rain or shine. I’ve named him Fred because he looks like he’s wearing a tuxedo a la Fred Astaire. But he rarely moves a muscle. Makes me wonder what he’s thinking. He recognizes my voice. We’ve been together for years, except for a two month period two years ago when he disappeared. I felt his loss. But he’s back now. I assume it’s the same bird; he keeps his own counsel.
When dolphins swim at night, you can’t see them, but you hear them breathing. If I’m very lucky and happen to be looking skyward, I will see the snow goose migration, and when I do it’s a treat. One day I made the mistake of sassing a crow, and he lay in wait for me, dive bombing me on my way to the car. That will teach me.
I also note the movement of the stars and the sun and the moon, and once saw a ball of lightning that stayed in one place, striking itself in the sky, for two solid hours. The neighborhood over which it hovered must have thought it was the end of the world.
And rainbows? Don’t get me started. A tornado came straight down the river within a quarter mile of the tenderhouse, and I am very grateful that it happened on my day off.
Mostly what I have learned is that I’m a very, very lucky woman to be able to observe the world in long running increments. It makes me look at the passage of time in a whole new way.
At least once per shift, I like to step outside, look up at the sky, and say, “Thank You.” Nature. It’s happening all around you. Stop and look.