Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a songbird will come.
It’s five o’clock. The waterbuck and Thomson’s gazelle single-file it to their nighttime holding. Moms with strollers and jostling teenagers single-file it for Akiba exit. I lean against the railing at Rhino as the breeze freshens and a suggestion of thunder growls to the south. The last guest in the Park ignores his cell and joins me.
The great horned beasts are standing now, three of them in the distance across the browning field, the vast male turned profile to us. First time I’ve actually seen them move – today’s rain popped July’s hot bubble and the rhinos now seem willing to forsake their shade. The man eyes my camera. “Bet you can really zoom in on them with that lens.”
“No, it’s not really much of a telephoto. I got a good look with these, though.” I fish my binoculars out of my pack and hand them to him.
He thanks me and sighs. “I love the rhinos. I came just to see them. Oh, I love all the animals, but I really wanted to get a good look at the rhinos.”
Now all three are moving across our field of vision, a slow parade for the man who loves them. He watches them out of sight. At last he returns the binocs, thanks me again, and hustles toward the exit. Tomorrow he and his family are on to Wilmington, but today he’s had his moment.
. . . . .
It was raining this morning, but I couldn’t go back to sleep. I called Zoo Com and got permission to enter the Park early. By 7:30 I had walked past bellowing alligators in the cypress swamp and crept to the edge of marsh (just below North America Plaza). It was still sprinkling. A yellowthroat sang. Barn swallows perched at the tips of tall reeds in between their insect forays. Then in the world of muted green and gray something larger moved.
A green heron was perched on the lowest branch of a dead bush at marsh’s edge. No, two green herons! The lower one assumed hunting posture while the second, perched higher, preened. My camera doesn’t have much of a telephoto; I would just have to watch them. It was all I could do. Bullfrogs and leopard frogs played a counterpoint duet. The yellowthroat sang and sang from low in the water grasses. Swallows flashed their ruddy chins and forked tails. And the two herons acted as if their rapier bills, their fencer’s stance, and their plumage, hunter green and bronze, were just the most natural things imaginable.
. . . . .
Pine Lake at Twilight
Whispering Pines, NC 1975
In the afterglow of February sundown
I hear the honking of two migrating ducks
over-flying our home –
fore-flyers of the flocks to come.
They swoop down over the pine-rimmed lake,
land on water, join the wintering mallards,
the pintails and widgeons feeding here
on the corn we spread at water’s edge.
The air tonight is soft as the lapping water,
sweet with songs of indefinable
pre-spring waking, quiet as the maples
lining the inlet to the pine-rimmed lake,
their branches reddening, swelling to liven
with starbursts of strange red-brown
tree flowers. Something of last year’s
dying is in the air, swelling to ripen anew.
Even as we do. We go from one year,
one love, one life, to another,
knowing spring will unfold us, summer
fly us, autumn flay us, till our veins
burst with longing to understand,
and we drop down – to lie with mosses
and fungi – under layers of leaves,
flexing our muscles on stone.
Mary Belle Campbell
. . . . .
Mary Belle Campbell was a devoted supporter of poetry in North Carolina, influencing a generation with her teaching, her encouragement, and her support of the NC Poetry Society and its endeavors. She endowed the NCPS Brockman-Campbell Award, which has been bestowed upon such notable poets as A.R.Ammons, Charles Edward Eaton, James Applewhite, Fred Chappell, and many others. When Peg, as she is known, was in her nineties she made a donation to become a lifetime member of the NC Poetry Society. Our memories of her thrive.
. . . . .
“I love all the animals.” I believe you, rhinocerous-loving man. I do, too. But the birds I can just watch and watch. There are Eastern Bluebirds nesting beneath the eaves just outside my window at Schindler Learning Center. I hear the cheeping each time they bring an insect to the nestlings (like every five minutes); sometimes one parent will perch on the Handicapped Parking sign with a beakful while waiting for the other to finish at the nest.
This drizzly morning at Dragonfly Pointe I heard a familiar gravelly rattle across the water and spotted a Belted Kingfisher ascending to his surveillance vantage in a dead snag. In just a minute or two he swooped down and caught a small fish; he carried it to the far shore of the lake to eat while swallows accompanied him. Harassing? Fighter escort? They gave up when he reached his perch.
Yesterday at Oak Hill (a picnic area above Hippo Beach) I heard a Red-Shouldered Hawk with a somewhat tentative call. Hmmm . . . suspicious. Sure enough, soon enough two Blue Jays flew out of the huge white oak, one of them assuredly the mimic.
. . . . .
For an hour or so this evening after all the visitors had vacated the Park I sat and wrote these comments. It was after 6:00 when I left – as I passed Forest’s Edge, a raccoon was hunkered down in the giraffe’s high-mount feeding trough. He looked quite sheepish when he realized I’d spotted him.
. . . . .