Thursday, March 20, 2014

Small Light in the Harbor

One thing is always true, if it's cold on land, it's colder on the water.  I boarded a bright yellow NYC Water Taxi commandeered by the Audubon Society for a few hours recently.  It was a full boat of bundled up nature-watchers.

Once underway, my eyes watered and the drops seemed to turn to icicles on my cheeks.  But my spirits were high.

We slipped past Governor's Island, looking like a New England college campus, directly across Buttermilk Channel from towering erector-set beasts that eat containers off massive cargo ships.

When our mustachioed and wry-witted guide spotted some birds, we'd peer and marvel a little.  An earnest volunteer would hold up a poster board with a lovely and colorful painting of the bird.

We moved farther along the hard edge where Brooklyn meets ocean.  There's a sewage treatment plant.  There's a desolate parking lot with litter skittering across.

It's easy to be melancholy.  There are absolutely no soft edges, no natural transitions between land and sea, in an area once so full of life it made hearts sing.  But life still finds a way.

In the end, we saw a handful of interesting birds and the marquee critter: seals.  There they were, impossibly, on old Swinburne Island, fat and curious.  They rolled off rocks into the choppy water or bobbed in the water looking at us looking at them.

I'm just going to say how it felt to see seals within sight of the Verrazano Narrows bridge and the sprawling metropolis:  Refreshing. Energizing. Awesome.

It's a small light I will carry with me through the darkest urban nights.

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