Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.
We christened them the “fireplace birds,” but of course they had another name. In those shortening days toward the end of August 2009, the Allagash was a quiet place. As Dad and I canoed from Umsaskis Bridge to Michaud Farm, the cool mornings and chilly swimming were more than compensated for by moose heavy with antlers and the beautiful solitude of the river.
Our cheeky friends first visited us at Lock Dam. Hopping contentedly among the ashes of the fire pit, focused on pecking who knows what, they were surprisingly tame. The colorful male and his drab partner were a species new to us. Dad and I love our birds, especially new ones, and felt their presence yet another gift of the late summer wilderness. Imagine our surprise, the next evening, when we discovered two more in the Outlet campsite on Round Pond.
Dad and I will never forget those birds, or the midnight stampede of a moose through our campsite and down into the river with a mighty splash, or our first otter family in the Musquacook Deadwater. A journey is so much more than the destination. One of my hopes for this summer is to absorb the experience, treasure the moments. And which parts will live on in my stories, in the memories of my heart? I don’t know, of course. But if you ask me why I will live on tuna and granola, portaging in the pouring rain and paddling into the wind, with sweat and bugs my closest friends, I go because of the fireplace birds, whatever they will be.
Oh, that’s right, you would like to know what those birds were, right? White-winged Crossbills, Loxia leucoptera, a finch that feeds almost exclusively on spruce and tamarack seeds, eating up to 3,000 in a single day!