(photo by Gail Jamington)
In those midday hours of too much sun on a tropical island, I drove a few miles up the avenue to Captiva, the next island up from Sanibel, Florida, where I have been beachbumming for a few days. I wasn’t feeling adventurous and this short, solitary vacation is not about food, that is, not food for the body though it is about food for the soul, so I was headed to the Keylime Bistro where I have been before, with my husband. thinking i would do a little shopping and then hopefully get hungry and eat a little lunch. But I found no shops in the place I remembered. I wasn’t even hungry but I was ready to get off the beach for a bit.
I ordered a salad and grilled snapper. As I picked at the unremarkable salad and fish I noticed a tall, skinny island pine across the street hung with large snowflake ornaments, which probably lit up at night. Ah yes, they think they can have Christmas in this tropical place but Christmas requires snow. Snow and cold was happening back home. I wasn’t missing it.
My gaze traveled up the pine and I saw an osprey perched on the bare spike of the tree where a star might have been placed. The big, white-breasted bird, handsomer than any ornament, was busy with something. I soon realized it was tearing apart a fish.
I watched the osprey devour the fish as I devoured my own fish. This wild thing, high above the supersaturated civilization of the island.
I finished my fish first so I ordered a slice of keylime pie, though I wasn’t hungry at all. I ate a few bites and asked for a box for the rest. The osprey continued to work on the fish. Several small birds perched just below, perhaps hoping for dropped morsels. All the osprey let go, however, was one impressive stream of white excrement, which jetted out onto the street. Although the street was lined solidly with human enterprises, no one was passing below at the moment. Fortunately. Though it would have been interesting to see.
Although I spent my entire lunchtime gazing up at the osprey, no one else in the restaurant seemed to be paying any attention to the bird. Perhaps they thought I was just a dotty old lady. Which I may be. Perhaps an osprey eating a fish at the top of a Christmas tree is an unremarkable thing to them. I know some were tourists like me. I remembered seeing one woman on the Sanibel beach earlier. I noticed her pretty gray hair and wondered if I should stop coloring mine. She was at the bistro with her husband and they were taking pictures of each other. If my husband had been there he would have been gazing upwards, like me.
The osprey was still ripping the fish when I climbed into my white rental car and drove sedately back to my cabin. Back to the beach to hang out with the shorebirds–small, medium, and large–and this morning a lone, elusive dolphin. A few humans. Some fishing pelicans. And overhead, ospreys.