i’m an early riser. seven days a week, i spring out of bed (ok, sometimes i groan and roll) at the crack of dawn to begin each shiny, new day. in the state of Washington, it’s mostly each dreary, new day, but you get the drift. during the week, i sometimes schedule 6:00 a.m. conference calls with an east-coast design colleague. and i usually begin the calls with my i-haven’t-talked-with-humans-yet disclaimer. (Michael, the designer and stalwart friend, is always patient with my initial incoherency.) but there’s something sacred about the morning stillness that beckons me to haul myself up to be a part of it.
for the past few early Saturday mornings, Tootie and i have driven an hour north to Bellingham, where we like to stroll through the farmers’ market packed with just-picked organic produce. before we head to the market, we stop for tea, then take brisk walks along the bay near Boulevard Park. last week, we jumped off the interstate and headed toward the boardwalk. just before our turn, my eye caught a brown state park sign: Larabee State Park, 7 miles. as many times as i’d driven on that road, i’d never noticed that sign. hmmm. me: want to go on a little adventure before the market opens?? Tootie: sure!
i maneuvered quickly into the left turn lane, heading south on Chuckanut Drive. each twist and turn in the road brought a new delight: a large property overflowing with brightly colored perennials. two does and three spotted fawns bouncing lightly along the tree line. ancient, moss-covered trunks embracing the roadway, their branches forming a welcoming arch as we traveled toward the park. soon we spotted a sign for the park’s boat launch. ever-inquisitive paddlers, we turned west toward the bay. in minutes, we pulled into the lot at Wildcat Cove.
the early-morning fog hadn’t completely lifted. a brisk wind slapped the choppy water against the shoreline. the small, rocky beach spilled over with the empty orange shells of Dungeness crabs. i looked up toward the cove’s southern-most point and then i saw her standing in the shallow water: a great blue heron. seriously? compelled by the bird to take an unplanned jaunt to the park that morning and specifically to the cove? well, i like to think she was the beak-in. certainly made me feel like mom is never too far away. i didn’t have my camera with me, but Tootie managed to take a blurry shot with her phone’s camera. mom would never have passed up a photo op.
we went back to the cove the next week. the sun shone; the water, calm and glassy, lazily lapped the rocks. ho-hum. ma? she wasn’t around. but this big boy sat atop the tallest pine in sight. majestic, to be sure. but not as cool as the great blue heron. we hiked through the park, then went up to the farmers’ market. we stuffed our bags with Ailsa Craig heritage onions, heirloom tomatoes and Krimson Lee peppers. with our booty, we made enough zingy tomato sauce to top future pizzas and pasta and to deck out some eggplant parmesan and lasagna. while spicy sauce has always reminded me of my dad, i imagine when i eat this Italian fare, i’ll be thinking lovingly of little bird.