The sun burned through for a few hours yesterday afternoon, turning a humid and cool day into a hot, clinging one. After building fixed-window frames for my workshop, filling bird feeders, relocating the woodpile to a more protected spot beneath the deck, and doing yard cleanup with a backpack-style leaf blower (which I also applied to the inside of my truck to dislodge dog fur) I went to the dock with a towel and book. I intended to take a long swim but a thunderstorm to the west activated my rarely-used good-judgment brain lobes. I swam enough to rinse the sticky sweat from my skin, floated and watched the sky, and climbed out to read on the dock, keeping one eye on the storm. Jagged streaks of lightning flashed and thunder rumbled about ten miles to the west. Clouds blanketed the entire sky, bringing early twilight. Save for the faintest occasional gust that kissed my drying skin there was no wind. The lake was preternaturally calm. The air temperature dropped a few degrees. I read–“Bangkok Haunts” by John Burdett, a wonderful beach (or dock) book–lifting my head every few pages to absorb the sky, storm, lake, air, and quiet.
The only interruptions were Cleo, who amused herself by dropping a stick in the water and jumping from the dock to retrieve it–good girl!–and a visit by two female mallards, who can be brazenly at home around the dock. They caught my eye when they swam past me, just a few feet from where I read, and climbed on to the dock about eight feet away. In water up to their bellies (the dock remains submerged) they groomed, standing on one leg and scratching furiously at their sides with the other foot. They scratched unbelievably fast and for a long time. They stretched and twisted their necks to dig their beaks into their back feathers, working them over with the same rapid intensity. I was tempted to say “here, let me get that for you.” The grooming respite went on for a few minutes during which they looked at me from time to time. A mallard head-on is a comical thing. The skinny head, flat bill, and close-set eyes make them appear two dimensional, like Toons. Then they smoothed their feathers, flashing brilliant blue beneath the dull brown, tucked their legs, floated, and swam away, tossing one last look my way.