Like many artists I have a day job. I teach 5th and 6th grade at the Key Learning Community, a progressive magnet within the Indianapolis Public Schools. My classroom has one of the best views in Indy. It’s the kind of view that doubles hotel room rates. Directly outside my window is the West Branch of White River. Across the river I’ve clear views of the Indiana Statehouse, Lucas Oil Stadium (I liked the buildings that they tore down to build it better.), Union Station and the skyscrapers that make up our skyline.
White River is not terribly attractive through this section. I love this river and have spent many days birding its backs from a canoe near my home upriver. The section downtown is slow, brown and urban. This being said it still acts as a corridor and flyway. If there are interesting critters in the city the river leads many to my windows.
Our winter snows melted last week. We got a bit more and it was
washed away by our first “spring rain” (Spring is still almost a month away). White River has been rising for the past two days and is expected to continue until tomorrow afternoon.
Rising rivers bring interesting things to me. Harlan Hubbard wrote about the salvage — lumber — and foodstuffs –pumpkins and gourds — that flood brought to him and his wife, Anna, during their historic voyage down the Ohio River in a Houseboat. Mark Twain covered the topic in at least three river centric novels. As a kid in Maine we walked around islands, coves and bays to see what the water brought us.
Today I’ve seen huge trees, a large section of floor, joist side up (well over 100 sq. ft), a suitcase and grebes.
Though grebes aren’t rare and I’ve spent more than my time on the water until today we’d never met.
After an early morning meeting I walked into my classroom and raised the shades. It was a beautiful sunny almost spring morning. The first thing that I noticed was that the river had risen so high that it was not only about 30 ft from my classroom. We’re on top of a flood control dike. It would have to rise another 20 feet to be of concern.
In the debris along the river bank I spotted the regular Canada geese and mallards. I started to walk away when it occurred to me that some of the ducks were too small and round. I ran to the car and got my glasses. From my classroom window I discovered that the “little round ducks” were pied-billed grebes! I spent what time I could gazing out the windows. I’ve been able to walk the fence and observe their sinking and diving defenses. Late this afternoon I took the entire class out to recess and a handful of students walked the fence with me and observed at least three grebes.
It’s a great day when you spot a new bird. It’s better when you spot a new bird in an unexpected and familiar place. It’s downright awesome when it can be shared with urban kids! It’s been a good day.
I will be carving a grebe soon!