No, I am not talking about a religious leader – I am talking about the bird!
It was bitterly cold this morning, in the low 20s (Fahrenheit, that is), and the wind was howling. I somehow managed to drive to the Monocacy Aqueduct. The local road was covered with broken tree limbs, and I had to navigate around the bigger ones, listening to the thumping of the broken branches against the bottom of the car. There was nobody around. The wind hit me the moment I got out the car bringing tears to my eyes. Having navigated cold mornings in the past, I was determined to go on. But this was different. About a half mile down the trail, I began to lose sensation in my toes and fingers completely. What little feeling of pleasure I had about getting back on the trail after more than a month of absence vanished. I may push things to the limit, but I am not foolish. I returned to the car and quickly turned on the heat. My fingers hurt.
I could have turned and returned home after this experience, but I still felt the urge to do something. So I headed north. I discovered the road to the parking lot at Nolands Ferry. The road was in as bad a shape as that to the Monocacy Aqueduct. The wind had done a number on the trees the previous night. The cold front had come roaring through on Saturday, and in our part of the world this is usually accompanied by the icy Canadian winds from the north. I stepped out of the car to think about running once again, but changed my mind quickly. I then drove further north to Point of Rocks.
I had just parked the car beside the trail when the Cardinal landed on the side-view mirror on the passenger side and looked at me. “What are you doing in there?” it seemed to be asking in a curious sort of manner. “Why don’t you join me out here?” I was furiously trying to extract my camera from its cover while the bird was sitting there pecking at the mirror. This one was sneaky. The moment I got the camera in my hands, it flew away to a branch on a tree and I had to be content taking a picture from a distance.
Anyway, this was my encouragement. I stepped out onto the trail once again. This time I made it a few 100 feet north before I was hit by a gust of icy wind that almost stopped me in my tracks. The impact of the wind being channeled over the trail by the cliffs next to the river was tremendous. I turned around and headed back on the trail, this time towards Nolands Ferry. This I could do! The space was more open and the wind did not seem to affect me too much, although I could still hear it howling through the branches up above me. Gradually, I got back into my pace, remembering the way things were before I went on vacation. It felt nice.
It was when I turned to head back towards Point of Rocks that I felt the effect of the wind once again. It was blowing into my face, but it was not as bad as before. The sun had come up by now and its warming effect helped things. In any case, I had no choice but to make it back to the car. There had been a few other people in the park at Point of Rocks, but there was nobody to be seen on the trail at that point. I think the wind had something to do with this.
So I completed the run, covering my normal distances, and got back into the comfort of the car. I was disturbed by a banging on the back window as soon as I sat down in the driver’s seat. It was the cardinal once again, furiously pecking at something on the back of the car! Once again I tried to get my camera ready for a picture but the bird flew away. As I settled into the seat to eat a donut, the creature performed its act once more, this time banging against the side window, looking at me all the time, and then flying away when I got my camera up. I then decided to get out the car and back into the cold, and tried to follow the bird to get a close-up picture of it. I managed to take a picture better than the one I had gotten during my previous visit to the trail, but it was certainly not as good as one I could have gotten if the bird were against the car itself.
The bird would keep reappearing the moment I laid my camera down, and then it would fly away. It was playing games! So I decided to sit for a while with camera in hand, just waiting. The bird came back, but this time it settled on the side-view mirror of another vehicle across the road. It then started pecking at the mirror of that car. I think what was happening was that it was seeing its reflection in the mirror and pecking at it. (Does anybody have an explanation for this kind of a behavior?) The bird never came back on to my car again. I had waited for about 10 minutes. I then drove home.
I could have given up at the Monocacy Aqueduct and gone home when I first got started, but I am glad I persisted. It felt good to do this once again, and I can thank my friend the cardinal for motivating me to get out there and brave the cold and the wind. By the way, both the side-view mirrors on the car have scratch marks on them that do not look like they will come off. The cardinal must have a very sharp beak.
The country celebrates Martin Luther King Day tomorrow. Lona Alias was playing excerpts from the “I’ve been to the Mountaintop” speech that Dr. King gave in Memphis on the radio. This was the speech given just before he was murdered. He had a premonition about what was going to happen to him. What a great speaker! His words moved people during his time, and they continue to be a source of inspiration. Dr. King was not a perfect person, but he managed to influence the life of many people in a positive way. We have to admit that we are also imperfect people ourselves. If we find a way to leave a positive and lasting impact on people in spite of our weaknesses, then I think we have done well.
Enough preaching for today.