They buzz me all the time, like fighter jet pilots. There is a pattern to it, routine. First, they notice the wood smoke coming out of my chimney. Then they fly closer, just to inspect the premises. They scan for movement. They scan for temperature, for moisture-holding heat. During each pass they focus on the window, hoping to detect movement.
It is in the earliest bright daylight that they sight me. Relaxed, drinking a cup of coffee on the bench, soaking up the sunrise’s first strains of warmth in the calm of no-wind low-light morning—before the sun heats and changes those relationships of equilibrium between water and air, before the day makes thermals to rise and swirl, then blow horizontally over the face of this place where great lake meets earth.
They are scouring the perimeters of their corporate space, the place where they do business. Looking for intruders. Or for those whose space merely borders, intersects, overlaps with theirs. They are looking out for their resources. I know this, because I once dragged a young corpse of one of their perceived enemies from this very beach, tucked it out of the direct heat of the sunlight to preserve it intact for just a little while longer, to admire the miracle of its genetic possibilities.
And while the sunlight lingers warm and the chilling thermals do not rise with their usual regularity, I let down my guard. I stroll out with a second or third cup of coffee. And I bathe in the cool lake, then soak up that sun. I sit again on my bench. As predictable as any other creature here, responding to heat, light, wind.
And one buzzes me again. First, east to west. It zooms in—long, low, and horizontal, wings angled in a glide that allows maximum viewing potential. I do not notice its presence until I hear the rush of air displaced, a great roar, as the wing flaps shift and maneuver a ninety-degree change in flight pattern.
We have been eye-to-eye. I could see sharp black side stripes from between which I was peered at by staring, dark eyes. Curious. Unblinking.
Ah, it’s just you. No threat.
We have both sighed in relief. Old friends. No shared resource in common. Each of us going about our business, exploiting different aspects of this shoreline. Each of us contributing differently to this shoreline.
Then comes the final pass. This time straight through, with no evasive turns. Just one thorough horizontal swoop from west to east. Slower. Gentler. Friendlier. Then a tip of a wing and a nod of a head, as it lifts and glides up over the boathouse, where my young dead osprey remains suspended from the rafters, loser in a war over limited resources.
Lois Beardslee is an award-winning Ojibwe/Lacandon author and illustrator. She is the first Native American to win the Michigan Notable Book Award, for her latest book, Words Like Thunder: New and Used Anishinaabe Prayers (Wayne State University Press, 2020), which received a silver medal in the 2021 Midwest Book Awards. Her work celebrates the strengths of indigenous people while addressing contemporary issues like climate change, socioeconomic inequality, racism in education, cultural appropriation in literature, and the impact of post-Brown Decision white flight on Native Americans north of the Great Lakes Rust Belt.