FAREWELL ... BAY SHORE
Once upon a magical time, my wild-friends and I all lived happily on the shores of Pennataquit Creek. I loved and laughed at the antics of the ducks and I fed the swans in Nor'easters and blizzards. I was thrilled one summer by a pair of young ospreys as they attempted and re-attempted to build their first nest high atop a crane across the creek and I was utterly captivated by the great blue herons and snowy egrets that fished for eels in the shallow waters. I helped Mother and Father Goose in times of trouble and cried whenever one of my wild-friends didn’t return. Then, suddenly, like all magical moments, one day, it was so quickly gone. Sadly, it seemed, the time had come for me to move on.
So with tears in my eyes and a very heavy heart, I carefully packed up all my treasures, watched as they were placed on the moving van and silently turned away as its doors were slammed shut. Alone now in the home I so loved, all was empty and quiet. I allowed myself one final look and, with my precious memories tucked tenderly inside my heart, while the words of an old John Denver song played in my head … “How can I leave you again, I must be clear out of my mind” … I gently closed the front door for the last time. Then with Pablo, Happy Bird, and Kismet, all in their avian traveling cages perched precariously atop boxes on the passenger seat and an extremely upset three year old blue merle collie named Misty Blue, sharing the back seat with even more boxes, I very slowly drove away ... not daring to look back.
It was more than just a house. I was leaving my nest, an ambiance that I had created, a garden in which I found an inner peace. It was supposed to be my “forever” home, the one I wanted to live in until the end of time. And, as I made my way towards Main Street, I told myself that by now, at age sixty-two, I should have learned that “never” doesn’t always mean “not ever” and “forever’s” sometimes aren’t meant to last a lifetime.
As I drove, I thought about all the other things I’d miss … running across the street to visit my dear friend Michael ostensibly to check out his garden when all I really wanted was a hug and a dose of his gentle humor … watching Justin and Amanda’s concerned faces whenever they brought me an injured baby bird or duckling … the dedicated and artistic women of Beautification that I had only recently begun to know … Daphne’s contagious enthusiasm as I helped with “Light the Night” … Thursday morning breakfasts at the Forum with the wonderful committee who worked so hard for incorporation … Patti (Our Daly Bread) delivering her delicious muffins to me daily when my hand was in a cast … Gina (Milk and Sugar) offering to have dinner delivered anytime when she heard that my husband’s emphysema had worsened … and Nikki (BumbleBabies) who rang my bell one evening in early July with the most beautiful, and probably the only, card on Long Island for triplets, just in time for my daughter-in-law Sharon’s baby (babies?) shower..
I also reminded myself that I did get my wish … a special young couple had fallen in love with my home. She appreciated wildlife and was artistic, like me, and he was the kind of sweet guy that most mothers would love for a son. My home was in good hands and would be filled with warmth and laughter.
For my journey east I did not take Sunrise Highway. That would have been too quick a transition. I needed time to reflect, to understand the myriad of feelings I was experiencing, so confusing, so bittersweet.
And, as I drove along Montauk Highway on that perfect mid-August afternoon, I had to admit that there was a sense of excitement growing inside of me that, try as I might, I just couldn’t deny. I’ve always loved the east end. It would be fun to discover new stores to shop in, new ponds to visit, and new roads to travel. A larger woodland garden was waiting to be planted and new wild-friends were waiting to be made.
The previous October, I had unwittingly found the perfect piece of land in a newly developed community in East Quogue with tree-lined winding roads where I could easily envision taking long walks with Misty and having exciting adventures in the woods with my soon-to-arrive triplet grandbabies. Our home would be one of the first of about one hundred forty homes to be built on four hundred acres most of which was bordered by nature preserves. Approximately one-third of the interior land was to remain untouched. Natural buffers of oak and pine twenty-five to fifty feet deep had to be preserved around the perimeter of all properties. Old trees were respected and left standing and native species indigenous to Long Island were to be planted in the buffers. When finished, it would be this nature lover’s dream.
Together, my husband and I went as often as we could to watch our one-level house being built and when his emphysema grew progressively worse, I went alone, taking leisurely drives along Montauk Highway, thoroughly enjoying the beauty of nature as this two lane country road slowly wended its way out to the south fork.
Each time I visited I eagerly looked for birds and squirrels, any sign of the wildlife I loved, but, this beautiful land surrounded by woods filled with towering old trees was as quiet and unlived in as it could be. When it snowed, I trudged through the drifts searching the woods for any sign of life, but the only tracks in the snow were mine. Although it was truly lovely and pristine, I knew I could never be happy until the snow was crisscrossed with the tracks of birds and squirrels, much as it had been in Bay Shore with the tracks of webbed feet.
Of course, I knew that the noise of the heavy equipment might have scared every one away, but permanently? Even when I went out on the weekend, all was quiet. It was so hard to understand.
Over the course of that year, there were three times I became a little bit hopeful …
One weekend, when my son Bobby and his wife Dina were with me, we saw a lone squirrel meandering along, but, to be perfectly honest, he looked lost! Then there was the time I spotted a crow family and I told myself that at least someone did live here and, yes, of course, I could love crows – now that they aren’t eating my ducklings! And then one snowy day in late February, I noticed fox tracks going down my driveway and onto my newly cemented basement floor. Rather ironic, I thought, that my two nemeses from Bay Shore were my first visitors. Well, at least here, I didn’t have to worry about someone hungrily looking for a free Long Island duck dinner!
And as springtime approached, there were no melodious songs of birds in the trees. All was quiet … very, very quiet.
It was now early September, I had somewhat unpacked and had begun to settle in. My birdfeeders had been filled with corn and sunflower seed for several weeks. The corn feeder was visited more and more and on some mornings it was completely empty, surprising since I filled them the previous evening. I began getting up earlier and earlier to see what rare and unusual birds were emptying my feeders so quickly. Surely, it had to be a very huge flock. And then one day just as the sun was about to rise, I stood transfixed for there, on my front lawn, was a doe with her spotted fawn. The graceful mother ate from the feeder and then knocked it back and forth so that the corn spilled out onto the ground for her baby. I was mesmerized and utterly enchanted as the little guy (girl???) ate, scampered around the front lawn tasting everything and then came up to my library windows trying to figure out if my houseplants were edible too!
As I looked through my window into those incredibly curious, beautiful brown eyes, I couldn’t help but wonder … could I truly be that lucky again … could the magic really be beginning anew?
You can visit Maria at Maria’s Duck Tales (www.mariasducktales.com)
Or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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