The entire time we crawled and waded through myriad piles of papers and stacks of brochures and booklets describing, outlining and rendering completely incomprehensible the various Medicare Advantage, Supplement and Part D Prescription plans I had a nagging suspicion that the moment we signed on the dotted line and selected a plan the doctor would call, tell me to take a few aspirins, have a stiff drink and come immediately down to his office to discuss my immediate need to get my affairs in order.

Turns out it took a full two days after we committed to a Medicare Advantage plan for the doctor’s receptionist to call and ask if I could come down this afternoon to discuss some insalubrious numbers in my BMP (Basic Metabolic Panel), adding, chirpily, that I hadn’t needed to fast because they weren’t concerned about my lipids.

“Insalubrious!” I shouted in my mind, “Sounds like the kind of word Jane Austen or Henry James would use to describe the potentially monstrous infelicities of utilizing a public restroom,” as I said, “yes, of course” I’d come down later that afternoon, “three-thirtyish.”

And so I spent the rest of the morning tinkering with a cataract of minutiae—I straightened up my office/studio a little (read: a real little), played with the recycling bins in the basement, charged my cell and Ipod and camera batteries, deleted a few hundred emails I had never read, filled the windshield washer chamber in the car, filled the bird feeders, brought a half dozen armfuls of firewood into the house, thought for a few nanoseconds about organizing the CD collection.

At about twenty after three my wife and I headed down to the doctor’s office and just as the steep hill on 9N leveled out my wife shouted:

“Snowy Owl!”

So I slammed on the brakes, went into a mild but controllable skid as the anti-lock brakes emitted a deafening noise that sounded like a lunatic school of piranhas chattering their teeth in the cold, and waited to feel the impact.  I realized I hadn’t hit anything at the moment I saw the owl perched on the roof of that rather famous barn that’s been falling down for the last twenty-five years at the intersection of routes 9N and 73.

Rain that morning had rid the entire landscape of all traces of snow, with the result that the snowy looked about as inconspicuous as a black widow spider on a piece of angel food cake.  It was the only white thing in the valley, in stunning contrast to the dark green roof of the barn and the dark green wall of spruce and pine beyond it.  Its feathers wafted gently up and down on a slight and intermittent southern breeze, and its yellow eyes looked amazingly dark compared to its feathers.  It looked absolutely ghostlike, luminous against the expanse of dark beyond it and stunningly white in the fast approaching dusk.  It made me think of Casper the Friendly Ghost.

I pulled over and took a few pictures through the window of my car, fearful of flushing the bird if I got out, and then turned off the engine to take a few more pictures, the better to reduce vibrations.

Then I called my friend Larry Master, the noted conservationist and wildlife photographer, and told him I had a snowy, right now, on the barn at the junction of 9N and 73 in Keene.

“I’ll be there in ten minutes,” Larry said.

“Larry, it’s a twenty minute drive,” I replied.

“Okay, eleven minutes.” He said.

I went on to say I had to leave because I was due at the doctor’s office ten minutes ago, but asked him to call me to let me know if he sees the bird and gets some photos.

As the nurse tightened the tourniquet and positioned the needle to draw my blood, my phone rang, and I said,

“Sorry, Patty, but I have to take this call.”

She rolled her eyes and made a face, loosened the tourniquet and sat back in her chair, lips pursed.

Larry told me immediately that he saw the bird and got some good photos, albeit he had to shoot at high ISOs and fast shutter speeds because of the failing light, and then he told me the bird moved from the barn to a utility pole on Cemetery Road.

When he hung up I smiled sheepishly at the nurse, who demanded,

“You saw a snowy owl just now, on the way here, two miles from here?  May I see the pictures you took?”

She had obviously heard both sides of the conversation and proceeded to rave about my pictures, asking, finally, if I would sell her a photo. I told her no, but I’d give her one free and she told me I was awesome as she reapplied the tourniquet and drew two tubes of blood.

I no sooner finished rolling my sleeve up than the doctor walked in and extend his hand, which, when I went to shake it, I realized was pointing at my camera.

“Can I see the snowy owl pictures?  I’ve never seen one.”

As I scrolled through the photos and enlarged some of them, he nodded his head in wonder, and before I got to the last photo the receptionist stuck her head in the door and asked if she could see just one of the photos.

By the time the doctor examined me and held forth on the curiosities of my electrolytes, I had promised everyone in the office a photo of the snowy owl and set a personal record for time spent there.

The insalubrities? 

Nothing I should have gotten upset about…

(More photos of this owl at www.adirondackbirdingtours.com/Facebook)

 


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    Besotted by the grace and beauty of birds, I can't help but watch, paint and write about them.

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