A Gentleman’s Sport

Photo by Laura Thomas

Sailing is a gentleman’s sport I heard, yet as the time drew near to board the craft, the fear and trepidation mounted. See, I’m a land lover, and while I like the water, it scares me. Sailing had been something I’ve wanted to do, but the fear griped me nonetheless. I climbed aboard to not only overcome my fears, but to stretch my wings, and go on a new adventure.

 Watching the crew work, to put this elegant sailboat out onto the waters, seeing what it takes to make it possible to sail. The captain directing, the crew work in unison, shifting sails to catch the wind. I know nothing of the happenings and feel a bit out of place, like a fish out of water. The sails are heaved to the heavens, catching the winds, moving the boat across the waters of the lake. For as I learned, sailing is as close to walking on water as you can get.

 The day was warm with a good wind, not hot, nor cold, perfect for a day to sail. The captain gives me the rudder–me a land lover–full control of the direction we take, oh the precision, the sensitivity to my guidance. As I guide, I feel elegance in this contrivance, a sense of calmness comes over me. I relax and as I take in the views, I see that this body of water is surrounded by mountains, and the shore line is dotted with homes.

The Captain always directing his crew on the best position of the sail, catching the optimal amount of wind, the breath of the craft. The crew then works the lines, working in unison to move, shift the sails making the boat heel over, as the captain gives orders for tacking, or jibing. As the wind catches the sails the boat is skimming the surface, flying over the top of the waters with an ease. Moving with the whims of the wind, allowing the sails to pull the boat through the waters A peaceful feeling the wind in my face, as it is brushing across the waters, forming ripples of waves that crash against the boat, almost like the sound of breaking glass in my ears. This is the only sound I hear out on the waters, there’s is stillness to the air, a quiet sound.

Looking up to the top of the mast, I watch the sky being swept with the sails; the clouds seem to be keeping pace with the boat. In this sky, the sun is circled by a rainbow, a sun dog I learned it’s called an omen of change, a sight to take your breath away and keep it.

 The waters heave as the winds move across the top, telling the sailors there is a good wind to catch the sails. Stay away from the smooth surfaces of the waters, for in them there is no wind, I am told. I hear the easy chatter of the people on board, they are relaxed and at ease, with each other and the boat.

 From the other side of the lake, another sail boat appears. A race! Each craft playing a cat and mouse game to see who is going to outwit the other. With strategic movements, fluid in motion, precision at its finest. A gentleman’s sport, for really there is no loser that day, it was all in fun and a bit of competition. Let’s raise the spinnaker sail, a question the captain is all too glad to answer, yes with a gleam and a smile. This sail is similar to a half balloon, come sit under it, a billowing motion, catching the wind to pull the craft. This lifts the craft up even higher out of the waters picking up speed, and a sudden rush of wind and adrenaline come upon me. The captain shouts “We won!” and smiles as his boat, the easy winner, pulls ahead–a victory.

 As we are ending our day, (oh what a day), the captain asked me, “Well what did you think?” I smiled and said “I loved it, I would love to come out on the waters again.” I think that made his day, for he also had a big smile.

A Silent Hunter

by Laura Thomas

A large, grey-blue bird is a silent hunter as it moves through the reeds. It can become  a statue when it stands with neck stretched out, hunting on the banks of the water’s edge. This elusive bird is as shy as it is quiet; in fact you may only see it after it has taken flight. Its huge wings, five foot in length and large body with its long legs trailing out behind it, make it seem as if you’re seeing a pre-historic bird, but in reality you are seeing a Blue Heron.

 My husband and I enjoy going out to Murphy Lake, near our home, for we never know what we will see there. On this particular day, as we were sitting near the water’s edge, with a camera in hand. My husband leaned over and whispered to me, “Look, Honey, a heron is in the cattails. Do you see it?”  “Ooh yes”, I said. And at first all we could see was the beck of the heron as it slowly, silently moved through the cattails. Then its head came into view. It saw us and stopped, watching for any danger, ever vigilant. The heron was watching us as closely as we were watching it. I could hear the camera shutter clicking busily as my husband took pictures. Then suddenly the heron was out in the open and it raised both of its wings as it readied for flight. I was spellbound as I watched this magnificent bird take flight. “Did you get that picture?” I ask. “Yes, I believe I did”, my husband said, as he took one last picture of the heron as it flew away.

We decided to come back the next day, wondering if we’d be so lucky as to see the Heron again.  Our second trip was not a disappointment. We found the heron already hunting, standing on the bank. This time the heron wasn’t as shy, as it seemed to know we meant it no harm. We watched as this magnificent bird, slowly, almost impperceptively, stretched its long graceful neck, out over the water. And then it froze, in place like a statue waiting for a fish to come close. The bird stood for some time, in this position just waiting for its breakfast, but with no luck. The heron then decided to wade out into the water, to see if the hunting would be any better. We watched this heron, realizing we were seeing something not often witnessed. When the heron finally left, we also left our observation spot and I decided I wanted to know more about these birds.  Here’s what I found:

Blue Herons have a subtle blue grey plumage. They are a tall elegant bird, standing 3.5 to 4.5 feet tall, with a wing span of 5.5 to 6.5 feet, but despite their large size they only weigh between 5 and 6 pounds. They have long curving necks and long dark legs. In flight they fold their neck back over their shoulders, thereby allowing the five foot plus wings to take deep, lazy beats, with their legs straight out behind them. The heron is found foraging along rivers, lakes and marshes, and sometimes will be seen in fields and wet meadows. They build their nests in trees, ranging from flimsy to elaborate, and add to their nests every year, which can be up to four feet in diameter. Both sexes are similar in color, except at breeding season when the male’s colors are more vibrant and plumes of feathers streak from his crown and his throat. A pair in turn will incubate eggs for about 28 days and each care for the young for up to 60 days.  These great birds are common throughout the U.S. Rocky Mountains. It was a pleasure to be able to observe this great bid in action and to watch it in its environment as it was hunting. An experience we will remember for a long time.

May Book News

Mary Frances Erler announces the acceptance for publication of her next fiction book, “Lauren’s Dark Passage” — a tale of hope and despair amid the unexpected twists and turns of modern life. Lauren at age 30 has been devastated when her husband announces he is leaving her for a man. She flees with her two children to Colorado, where no one knows her. Soon she finds a job at a local nuclear power plant, and finds herself attracted to a married coworker. Is this the beginning of a change in her life? Or is something even darker looming on her horizon?

Erler’s book will be released by First Steps Publishing in spring 2023.

For information on this and other books she has published, she can be reached at mferler@peaksandbeyond.com