Once you know the back roads, you don’t have to read the newspaper. He tells me this as we drive along a washboard road. We are not on our way to watch the Bald Eagles return to the stream to feast on Kokanee Salmon. It’s spawning season, the newspaper reports, a great time to spot a large gathering of Bald Eagles.
But he knows a far-off meadow and how to park so the sun can’t cause reflections. And we both know how to fall quiet.
Alongside us — miles of barbed-wire fencing. Every six feet, the wire is stapled to the short trunk of sagebrush or juniper. And up ahead, soaking up the sun are six teenaged Bald Eagles roosting on six different posts.
We watch without breathing. If you think of all the times you’ve wasted your breath, he whispers, you realize you can breathe in later.
The eagles spread their wings and we think- oh, they are taking off. But no, they stretch their wings and hold them wingtip to wingtip six times over. A tremor runs through their feathers and finds it way to my sneakers. And the inside of my elbows. Afterwards, he tells me this is the way eagles rid their feathers of mites and other unwanted varmints. The feathers get too hot from the sun, the mites and such find it too unpleasant and escape their feathered hideouts.
He knows all the lyrics to Cielito Lindo and would have sung them for her, but she didn’t follow him far enough. Down and around the way from where the wide subway platform narrows, a trio of Mexican musicians were taking a smoke break. Had a train come by, it would have been scary business, what with how narrow and dark the passageway was. Elbow to elbow in the confined shadows, he shared a stick of gum with the accordion player. She thought of dark evil and furry creatures and stayed in the safety of the wider platform; he thought Canta y no llores.
Sing, but do not cry.
Somehow my mother thinks a bee can fly 5,280 miles in one day. This is her answer to the trivia game we are playing at her kitchen table. A grandson challenges us to consider, then, the sound of a bee flying 220 miles per hour. Mom doesn’t really think this is possible, but because she’s imagined and written it on the whiteboard, she’s made it possible for her children and grandchildren to imagine so much more.
One of my brothers fixes a plate of raspberries and yogurt. He can make the shortest bee buzz of all of us. That’s because he knows something we don’t know, he admits after we declare him victor.
Last fall when the beekeepers were moving their hives from Montana to California for the winter, one of the semi-trucks stopped outside his office. Come outside, the driver hollered. And so my brother did — just in time to witness the heat wave rising from the back of the flatbed truck. What the . .? he wanted to ask. The driver nodded back. The bees are beating their wings to keep their queen warm. It’s a long way to California.