In collaboration with Orion Magazine, Living on Earth continues our feature “The Place Where You Live.” This week, Chaitali Banerjee follows a bird squawk on a bike and hike trail in Niskayuna, New York where she often takes refuge.
CURWOOD: The special place that you care about - where you go to be close to nature doesn’t have to be exotic - it doesn’t have to be spectacular - it just has to speak to you.
BANERJEE: I’m Chaitali Banerjee, I’m from Nisayuna, New York. It’s about 18 miles from Albany, the capital of New York. I’m a biomedical scientist and a science writer and I also write essays, travel narratives, short poems, and this is a piece that I wrote about a park that I visit often - it is on the banks of the Mohawk River, which is a tributary of the Hudson River. It’s my place to contemplate, to write and I also do a lot of bird watching there. There are several species of birds - common birds, but I do look at them.
[MUSIC: Vitamin Piano Series “Goodbye Blue Sky” from The Piano tribute To Pink Floyd (Vitamin Music 2005).]
BANERJEE: Chasing A Squawk Across the Mohawk River.
Hot, parched, parking lot eases into cool shading oasis beneath maple and cottonwood trees lining the Mohawk/Hudson hike/bike trail. I settle down on a bench as the air fills with swirling wisps of cotton. Squawk, squawk, loud, deep, guttural throaty. I scan the marshes, no suspect.
Distant cattails undulate in gentle breeze; smack at the center of river, an angler’s boat. Redwing blackbird hops among maple leaves, here I see it, here I don’t. Flycatcher dives into carpet of water chestnuts. Squawk, I gaze up and down the river. Grackle keeps its yellow, bright, inquisitive eyes on me. Iridescent feathers now purple, now the deepest blue. Red-tailed hawk misses a chipmunk.
Squawk, I walk, eyes peeled to the river, marshland shrubs. Riverbank resplendent with vibrant rose-purple spikes of Purple Loosestrife. Squawk, squawk. A large grey-blue bird rises from the duckweed. Rises its way across the marsh - I am spellbound. As I savor the leisurely, graceful, grey and black flight, the elegant curve of the neck, bill so yellow, sharp and strong.
Slender, long legs. It lands on driftwood, composes itself then starts stalking with deliberation. Stilt-like legs cover stretches of marshland in a blink of an eye. Yellow gimlet eyes intense and focused - the beak dives in and out. My binoculars tremble as I watch a primal struggle unfold. Squawk, Squawk, the Great Blue eron. I stand out at river’s edge…mesmerized.
CURWOOD: Chaitali Banerjee lives in Niskayuna, New York. Tell us about “The Place Where You Live.” You can find out about our collaboration with Orion Magazine and how to submit your essay by visiting our website LOE dot org.
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