We place our lawn chairs beside the small stream in Saddington Park, underneath gnarled, elvish willows, our backs to the lake. Marion unpacks her art supplies and lines them up on the ground, then begins sketching. I switch on my Kindle and begin reading “The Gold Bug” by Edgar Allan Poe. It’s another of the endless stream of classics I neglected in my youth.
Male redwings shout their shrill, aggressive calls nearby, chasing intruding birds that venture into “their” territory. Female redwings sneak through the undergrowth. It’s mid June and they have youngsters hiding from view. The Redwings may have staked this as their spot, but no one owns a stream and other birds fly into the trees and down to the water.
Momentarily losing my concentration on Poe, I begin inventorying birdsong. A red-eyed vireo belts its pretty but incessant affirmations from overhead, high in the treetops. A mockingbird cycles through its extensive repertoire. A male robin joins in, then a male cardinal. Then a nuthatch and a song sparrow. Just beyond the trees rough-winged swallows and barn swallows swoop and tumble noiselessly through the air, speeding like stealth fighters, nailing insects in mid flight.
Marion stands for a moment, stretches, then takes a couple of limping steps. She gets bursitis in the region of her replacement hip, and her other hip is deteriorating. Osteoarthritis — painful, insistent. I stretch too, stiff, sore. In our mid 60’s our health is relatively good, but age is telling. We feel young, but the internal scaffolding is wearing out.
As Marion turns to the lake, she sees someone on a plank with a sail attached. We both grope after the word for it but can’t bring the name back to memory. Something like “sail plane” but we know that’s not quite right. I turn on the Kindle’s wireless and search Wikipedia. Nope, a sail plane is a glider, but I stumble across “sail board” and “sail boarding.” That’s it. We do crossword puzzles every day to try to stave off memory loss. It helps … a little.
Back to the stream. Marion finishes her initial pencil sketches and starts applying watercolour. I return to the tale of the gold scarab beetle and its deepening plot. What has possessed Mr. William Legrand? Jupiter, his black serving man, thinks the gold bug is bad mojo. The narrator thinks Legrand may be going insane. Jupe is now up an ancient tulip tree, at Legrand’s insistence, and finds a skull nailed to the seventh branch. The plot is twisting.
As we sit quietly, a pair of mallards silently paddle into view where the stream widens at this spot under the willows. They stop to preen. A redwing chases out a grackle. The vireo never stops singing. For some while little insects have been alighting on my hands and arms, occasionally ambling across the Kindle’s screen. I look more closely at them: there are three kinds leafhopper nymphs, all of them green. The largest is about the length of the quick of my thumbnail and is a brilliant uniform green — katydid green. The middle one is darker green, with black stripes. The smallest is a uniform muddy green. All of them look much the same, except for size and colour. Then, in the middle of the green, a red speck strolls across my hand to the kindle and across its top. A red mite.
Suddenly I need a cuppa. I check with Marion and she too would like a hot drink. And a bagel. There’s a Starbucks about a fifteen-minute walk from the stream, so I switch off the Kindle, leaving the story near its climax. I’ll savour it more once I’m caffeinated. Besides, I need the exercise. I had a good physical exam on my 65th, but my doctor chided me a bit on my waistline and weight. As I’m a heart patient, he advised me to slim down.
At the Starbucks counter I learn that someone came in earlier and bought up all the bagels. I remember seeing a ferris wheel appear suddenly across the bridge at the local library. Waterfront Festival. The carnival people have just arrived and set up, which probably accounts for the run on bagels. I pick up a grande mild coffee and a grande black tea and slice of lemon poppyseed cake for Marion. With luck she’ll offer me a bite.
I walk back to the stream and the redwings and the lawnchairs. We sip our hot drinks and I finish “Gold Bug.” Although the prose is from another era, Poe was an immensely creative writer. It was a very good read.
Marion adds black ink “highlights” to her watercolour, bringing out more of its structure. As usual, she dismisses her work, but I like it. Like most artists, she undervalues her talent.
Soon we wrap up. Marion puts away her brushes, pens, and pencils while I attempt to take a macro shot of one of the leafhopper nymphs with my little digicam. They move too quickly and appear blurry in the viewing panel, so I delete the pix. We fold our lawn chairs, carry our trash to the bins, and return to the car in the parking lot, bidding adieu to the park until next time.