Beauty is where you find it. I found solace and awe in the sunrises and stars on Afton Mountain, and now a different beauty unfolds on the James River in Richmond.
Witness a scene while paddling in my kayak upstream of the Z Dam:
Just above a distant bank, the rustling of a large brown bird caught my eye. At first, I thought it a vulture, but the markings and shape of the wings didn’t fit. Juvenile bald eagle? It rose above the tree line and was joined by another; they disappeared into the trees. Within seconds, a mature eagle–majestic, huge, unmistakeable with its white cap and tail–soared into view, and a second adult followed moments later. I had stumbled upon–or rather floated upon–a family affair. The two adults crossed to the northern bank and soon were out of sight, but I think their nest was not too distant.
I was so intent on the sight that I barely noticed the strike of a smallmouth bass on my plastic worm. But soon the fish was putting up a whale of a fight–launching into the air like a bronze missile–and a moment later I reeled in, then released, a glistening 12-incher.
I continued paddling to the dam on the other side of Williams Island and was in for more treats. I counted seven great blue herons standing in the river just downstream of the dam; their eyes were glued on the water tumbling over the concrete, and they seemed poised to pounce on any fish that was caught in the flow.
Above, an osprey was on the prowl, and as I looked among the trees, I saw what appeared to be three juveniles on branches, watching the bird in the air. Was this an adult putting on a fishing clinic for its offspring? The adult circled, dipped, wheeled higher, flapped its wings intensely in a holding pattern, then knifed into the water. No luck. Again it put on an amazing display of aerial acrobatics, then plunged into the water. Again no luck. The younguns continued to watch. The adult rose again and resumed the hunt, soaring, fluttering, probing–and then it folded its wings and slammed into the water beside a rock. When it arose this time, its talons held a hefty fish, one so bulky it weighed down the osprey as it lumbered downriver to what I imagined was a waiting brood.
I paddled back toward the landing by the Huguenot Bridge, thankful for having witnessed such natural beauty.