One summer, nearly a decade ago, several of us got together with our friends and teachers, Bernardo Peixoto and Jenny Toscano, at a camp on Lake Champlain. We had gathered for a long weekend of play and work in a glorious location. The weather beings blessed us with day after day of perfect summer weather.
Jenny is a Peruvian shaman and has a deep relationship with the condors. Bernardo is an Amazonian shaman from Brazil. Vermont is home to large numbers of turkey buzzards, the “little cousin” of the condor. Whenever Jenny went outside, a great flock of buzzards followed her, spiraling in a helix above her head. What a sight!
On Sunday morning a few of us gathered to great the new day. It was early, but the sun was already above the horizon by the time we were ready. (We had all enjoyed a late night.) Bernardo lit an immense bowl of sage, and the sweetly pungent, deeply fragrant smoke filled the courtyard in which we stood. Jenny prayed for the good of the Earth, and gave thanks for the new day. In perhaps fifteen minutes the prayers had been completed, we had each been blessed, and we had spoken our gratitude to the Creator and the Spirits.
During the ceremony our backs had been to the woods. Following the ceremony, a friend and I turned around. Towering above the treeline was an extraordinarily tall tree. Atop the tree rested an immense nest containing two osprey. This nest had not been visible when we began the ceremony; it was a wonder! We stood and marveled for a long time, then went inside to enjoy breakfast with our friends.
When we returned to the courtyard, the vision still hung in the sky. Perhaps we could find the tree and see the osprey at close range. Climbing into a canoe we paddled along the shore, then further out into the lake. Although we searched for perhaps an hour, we were unable to find the nest, or even see it. Eventually we headed back to camp, more confused and excited than ever. When we rounded the point, and headed into the cove, we noticed the osprey pair courting in the air above the courtyard. The pair would fly high into the sky, then descend in a drop, weaving a helix within the circle of their descent, a perfect dance. No one was in the courtyard. We were the only witnesses!
Eventually, we returned to shore, sore from going out way to far, too early in the year, found Bernardo and Jenny and told our story. They were non-pulsed. This was, for them, an everyday event. I remain awed and warmed by the experience. Last summer, while attending the joyous, lakeside wedding of two same gender friends, I found the nest! I sat in a chair on a knoll overlooking the wedding party and the lake. Before me, on a promontory, stood the nest! The osprey swooped, danced, and sang above the wedding. A blessing!
A couple of days ago, I was driving a short bit of highway near our home. The highway passes through an extensive area of ponds and marshes. About halfway through the drive, I noticed a huge nest resting atop a utility pole. In the nest were a pair of osprey! Since then, I have driven by them again and again. Sometimes one is on the nest; often the mate is soaring high over the marsh. At other times, they are both gone. When they are present, one can hear their chirping call, a call and response.
This morning, as I drove by, the rain had let up, and one bird sat in the nest. Lacking a telephoto lens, I still took the above photo from a respectful distance. As I stood briefly on the highway’s berm, watching the nesting bird, I was reminded once again: to watch osprey is to feel blessed and to know joy.