Location, Location, Location!

No one was happy when the backhoes, chainsaws and earth shoving people showed up at the wooded area across from the old marina along the Georgetown riverbank in Jacksonville last year. My phone started ringing off the hook and emails dove into my inbox faster than a Peregrine Falcon pursuing a meal. People were desperately pleading for someone to do something — mainly, make it stop! Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything I or anyone else could do but stand and watch, that is, if you had the stomach for it. The land, bought by a ‘well known’ in town, was being cleared to make way for million dollar views from the “to-be constructed” waterfront homes. It’s happening in too many places to count, especially along the coast. The pristine habitat, home to deer, fox, turtles, cottontails, opossums, raccoons, ducks, and every song and sea bird indigenous to North Carolina, including the river hunting Osprey, one of the largest birds of prey in North America, was being ripped apart to create a blank canvas convenient for builders. It was a slow lingering death for the once wooded area that provided shelter and food for so many animals and absolute joy for wildlife enthusiasts. When movement across the river stopped, all that remained was the single Osprey pole at the edge of the bank. Some folks found comfort knowing that at least we still have them; our Sea Hawks, who have nested on that pole and fished the New River for decades. We’ve watched many an Osprey fledgling make their first flight from that pole. But . . . one day the pole was there and the next day it was gone, with no sign that it had ever been there, and no one admitted seeing it come down. The absence of the Osprey pole was the last straw for the battered nature lovers. They created an uproar so beautiful it moved me to tears. The habitat destructionists explained what happened as accidental, and that’s the story they’re sticking to. “The nest just fell down.” Those who lost sleep over the Osprey issue have a hard time believing the accident story. Most think the innocent pole became a thorn in the new landscape owner’s unappreciative eye. To appease those incensed by the loss, the earthmovers erected a new pole and built a flat wooden platform on top. Bolstering the gesture, they affixed a web-cam to one arm of the platform supports, affording the opportunity for community residents and school children to witness the eggs hatching and the rearing of Osprey babies, IF they did indeed return to their old nest site. Ospreys are quite used to refurbishing their last year’s nest, but whether the Osprey pair would accept the new manmade structure and choose to rebuild, we’d just have to wait and see. Spring came and human eyes were set on that pole every day. Finally, a lone Osprey was sighted standing on the platform. A few days later there were two. I’ve heard realtors say over the years, “the three key considerations for choosing a home are location, location and location!” It must be true. Observing the Osprey couple, which mates for life, construct a new nest stick by choppy stick (although unfortunate they had to) was heart warming and gave the caring community’s modest voice something to cheer about.

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There are now eggs, splotchy and the color of cinnamon, in the nest. Soon we’ll see baby Osprey heads poking above the twigs looking for their mom or dad on the wing, anticipating the delivery of a fresh catch to the nest, maybe a tasty menhaden. The sky will again sing the tune of short, chirping whistles of Osprey babies begging for a fishmeal; signaling a little something is still right with our world.

Linda Bergman-Althouse

author of “Save Them All”

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Love, What’s With That?

The hardest thing I find to write about is writing. So many authors say, “writing is a labor of love,” but rather than love, a desperate need to speak always swells for me. That need fuels my initiative, but even during the laborious process of writing, I experience everything but love. Frustration, responsibility, comic relief, fear, mischievousness and even anger come to mind. Maybe the ‘labor of love’ thing is symbolic and zooms over my head at warp speed without touching down. Love sounds so sweet, tender and warm, which is hardly what I feel when I write. My passion and enthusiasm has to come from somewhere though, maybe that’s what I pull from the love word. ‘I see, hear, feel, therefore, I write’ seems to be my mantra, if I truly have one. It sounds juvenile, uneducated and less sophisticated, but it seems to work. I must admit, there are times when I wish for a formula. A handy, concrete algorithm would give me more direction; a precise way to get where I’m going, definitely the better focus everyone talks about. But wouldn’t stringent focus be stifling? Isn’t that when you start pumping out material that becomes more or less the same story with a different title, very Stephen King or Danielle Steele like? I’m scattered, and I know this. I write in pieces, large and small, irregular or with straight edges. Where or when an idea will move me to paper is anyone’s guess, especially mine. To compensate, I make sure a spiral tablet is within reach; on the counter, bedside stand, in my purse or book bag, the bathroom, even the car, although I try not to be that crazy person on the road who is doing everything but paying attention to driving. The mini-recorder comes in handy then, unless the batteries are dead. Sometimes in desperation I must become the crazy person, because I know my free-flowing thought will not arrive at my destination in the same condition if I can’t manage to get it to the tablet, napkin or the back of my car registration. More than likely, it would be lost forever. I have found over the years that the most fertile grounds for generating my best written work is in the car or the shower. My desk’s perimeter is lined with piles of steno pad spirals filled with half or whole thoughts (some, unfortunately, contain water warped pages with smeared ink). When the prospecting mood strikes, I sift through the combinations of words; uncover my gems and the ‘needs to be worked,’ laugh at the ridiculous, ripping them out to be crumpled and tossed into the ‘what in the world’ area. Then, the arduous, humungous jigsaw puzzle begins. When I think long and hard about it, I see that I truly just throw the whole process into a pot and boil it down. Subconsciously or possibly while in denial, I peel away the thin shell and bitter layers to surface the sweetest part of the onion. After cooling, I roll it through my mind and smush it in my fingers. Done. I realize this has to be the more difficult approach to writing, which truly lacks any systematic series of actions but still, what’s love got to do with it?

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Linda Bergman-Althouse

author of “Save Them All”