An Absence of Leaves

Tree in outcrop (2)The breeze was chilly, and the gray clouds sagged in the sky. It was not the most inviting day for a walk but I was in search of something: an eagle’s nest.

A bald eagle had showed up from time to time on my walks south of Elroy last summer. Once, it was circling high overhead with a second bird. Could there be a nest in the vicinity? Maybe, but to locate it, I would need to scan the distance for a massive nest of sticks in a huge, solitary tree, or perhaps on a stone outcrop. That’s not so easy when you’re surrounded by dense, leafy trees. Now, in November, most of the leaves are underfoot, and a whole once-hidden world had come into view.

As I walked near the forks of the Baraboo River, I peered through bare branches at meanders and sloughs I had never noticed when all was green. A fox squirrel froze atop an old fence post, hoping, perhaps, to remain hidden behind a shrub that hid nothing.

Sandstone outcrops, visible all year, looked even more dramatic now that the curtain of leaves had fallen away. A valiant little tree grew from a crack in one outcrop. Whenever life’s obstacles seem too difficult to overcome, I should think of this tree.

In shrubs and trees along the path I spied dense masses – nests – that birds had used in secret last summer to lay eggs and shelter their young. Indeed, the profusion of nests reminded me of how much goes on that we fail to see – all around us.

I didn’t spot an eagle’s nest, but I’ll keep looking as long as there is an absence of leaves. After all, it seems that searching is half the fun.nest