Listen to this article

It’s a misty morning in Birdland.

I am working my way through the morning chores: feeding the dogs and taking them for their morning constitutional. We walk on a leash since it’s garbage day.

I take two scoops of chicken feed to the coop and decide to move the new mama and her three little chicks from their small brooding pen to the aviary.

The aviary is lush with bindweed and wild lettuce, making a shady jungle. The mama immediately begins clucking softly and scratching in the dirt. The chicks follow, cheeping.

Last time, I was telling you about our trip to San Juan Island near Seattle. We were having a “Parents Weekend” with our oldest, Chandra, and his new wife. This weekend trip was a chance to get to know Lila’s parents, since none of us could come to their wedding during COVID-19.

After lunch at the oyster farm, we continued our circle tour of the island. We parked at the far end and took a sandy trail over dunes, where we saw horsetails and lupines. The trail took us to a small lighthouse, picturesque from a distance.

But when we got up close, we saw that the windows were faked, simply black rectangles painted between sills set in whitewashed walls. Still, I appreciated the homey illusion.

We stood at the top of the trail overlooking a rocky decline down to the sound. The sky was full of grey clouds, and wind buffeted us.

Later, in town, we wandered through the port, looking at boats — an antique schooner with wooden masts and blocks was my favorite.

We saw a rock crab as big as a melon just hanging out under the pier. The Friday Harbor Seafood kiosk had a wall full of vibrant fish painted on plywood — each one in different colors and shapes. A string of carved wooden perch painted realistically hung on chains from the rafters.

We wandered through a farmers’ market, crates of beets and radishes were stacked next to baskets of shallots and broccoli.

In the afternoon, we boarded a whale-watching boat. It was small, and the captain boasted about the almost-silent water jets that would propel the boat, minimizing the impact on wildlife.

Spoiler alert: We didn’t see any whales this time, but we did see cormorants, a lot of seals and sea lions, puffins (my favorite), a bald eagle the size of a 10-year-old child (I suppose this could be an exaggeration. It was perched high in a dead tree, and it sure looked huge from down on the water. I mean, we now have bald eagles in Piatt County, but they are tiny compared to this one.) and other birds and fish that I can’t remember right now.

I think they could successfully market this trip as a wildlife tour, and I would be just as pleased. But since we didn’t see any whales, they offered us another free trip sometime in the future. Either way, it was a pleasant day on the water, jetting from one rocky island to another, with a naturalist explaining all about what we were seeing.

One more night in our victorian B&B and then back on the puddle jumper to Seattle. We retrace our journey over the sound, passing over toy harbors and towns and watching them recede while the memories fill my head over the sound of the engine.

We arrived back at home in time for yellow season — an explosion of black-eyed Susans, day lilies and squash blossoms. Amidst all that, the ghost lilies arrived, adding their naked pink to the mix. Every year, their coming surprises me, though I should be looking for them. The leaves come up in the spring and gather sunshine to store in the crisp bulbs underground. They die back, and I forget all about them, though they are preparing for their blooming underground. Stalks thrust up out of the ground overnight and open a cascade of pink, aromatic bells.

Today, the bells help me remember what’s stored in the bulb to nourish me for my next visit with the kids and our new friends. We’ll have some catching up to do and some whales to watch.

Stockpile Beauty; Accumulate Peace; Blessed Be

Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. If you’re missing your weekly dose of Birdland Letters in The News-Gazette, you can still read them every week in the Piatt County Journal-Republican. Consider subscribing to support your small-town newspaper. You can see pictures about this week’s post on Instagram @BirdlandLetters. Mary can be reached at or via snail mail care of the Journal-Republican, 118 E. Washington St., Monticello, IL 61856. She wants to thank her friends for writing and will answer you all soon.

Trending Videos