A kettle bubbles above a blue flame on the stove and the salt I add roils the water’s surface, reminding me of the lake. I turn to look out the window at an ever-changing canvas of surf and sky. Today it is alive with gulls and cormorants, kingfishers and mergansers. Salt and pepper birds.
Reducing the heat, I toss in quartered onions, chopped parsley, freshly squeezed lemon juice, peppercorns, and a bay leaf, marveling at how this curious brew can render bass into something better. Slipping the fillets into the broth, I walk to the window to wait while they poach. The aroma follows me into the living room, mingling with the lingering scent of lemon on my hands.
Cormorants numbering in the hundreds have begun their day-long shuffle, attempting awkward landings and vying for pecking order on the silver-gray branches of a driftwood tree farther out in the lake, dotting it like autumn leaves too stubborn to fall in season. Leaning into the wind, they wait, too. Fishing requires patience and they’re in no hurry with the prospect of a buffet below.
Overhead, seagulls and kingfishers flutter in a stiff southwest breeze, eyeing the swells for the silver flash of a shad. One by one they drop with a frothy splash that rivals the white caps, returning to flight with a swoop and a gulp.
Closer to shore, a flock of mergansers bobs in unison as the wind and waves buffet them — a battleship of birds. One dives, then the next, and the next, like torpedoes firing in sequence. Mission accomplished, they break the surface again, resuming formation with beaks and bellies full.
Surprise! A bald eagle zips by, chased by his shadow on the matted grass. He hovers near the bluff and his shadow hesitates, then darts to race over the water in an ongoing game of tag. A long, descending arc brings them to the water’s edge where the eagle promptly meets a carp, as though they’d made an appointment to discuss business over lunch. Seconds later, he ascends with the carp secured in a talon-ed handshake — a binding contract. Protesting his powerful presence, the cormorants squawk and scatter. Once again the sky is filled with salt and pepper birds.
When the timer on the kitchen counter concludes its countdown, I follow the intensified aroma back to the stove. Within minutes, I’ve witnessed the cycle of life and how fleeting moments truly are. I intend to savor this one. Scooping the fillets from the steaming stock, I smile.
Lunchtime at the lake.
Enjoying sharing what I “see” with you,