Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Nest

On bright summer days as we cross the cobweb bridge that leads from our island to the mainland, it isn't unusual to see an osprey sitting high up in the rigging, eyes raking the water below. Every summer the osprey return to the nest perched at the very top of the bridge's east tower. For most of the month of May they refit the nest, carrying inch-thick branches to the top of the tower and working them in, repairing, refining, insulating, shaping, until it's finally ready for a brood of chicks. Unless you know it's there it's easy to miss the nest, but I always look for it as I go across. Sometimes tiny heads pop up from the frill of sticks around the edge; if I am lucky, I will catch a glimpse of a returning parent bearing an unlucky fish.

Unfazed by construction work, which on our marginal bridge is almost ongoing, or by tourists with cameras, or the schooners in full sail that dream by under the span during the summer and fall; undaunted by thunderstorms and n'oreasters, blistering sun or disorienting fog, the ospreys endure and thrive.

By November, the nest is abandoned for the winter. In this respect it always puts me in mind of the many summer cottages on the island and along our lacy coast: suddenly bereft of life, shuttered, dark and cold. We have some wild storms in late fall and early winter and, as unwary visitors from softer climes discover, even into late spring. After each storm I look for the nest sure that it has been blown away or fallen, shattered, on the roadbed below, but it is always there. Even after an ice storm tinsels the cables and handrails; even after a windstorm rakes, unforgiving, the groves of balsam that fur the road on either side; even after gouts of snow blast the piers and pucker the icy water; even after the intense and brittle cold, the nest is still there.

Sometimes a two- or three-foot long stick - a hint of the size and durability of the nest that appears so small and fragile from below - will appear in the road, but as far as I can tell the nest's superstructure remains in place waiting for spring repairs when the osprey return in May.

As I watched our new president take the oath of office last week, I was reminded of the nest. I won't strain the analogy...you get the point.