LAKEFRONT RESERVATION, early October

The first thing I noticed about the path today was how suddenly damp it was. And I wondered about the last time it rained. I couldn’t recall but here, in the shade, was damp earth, its wrinkles and puckers filled in by water. Whether it came from above or below it didn’t seem in this instance to matter.

It warmed up more than I expected and white men, suddenly ageless in retirement, combed the tall grasses for birds, their necks and arms weighed by great scopes and expensive cameras. Even without the intention of doing harm, I felt vulnerable under their gaze. I consider how they deem something worthy, when they stop, what they choose to give their attention to.

Rarity?

Beauty?

Their song?

Their feathers?

I saw him walking ahead and for a moment I consider diverting to the lower ground, where the path is worn between the trees, but instead I stood on the bluff, too, right next to him, asked him to prove his belonging.

“Who is that?” I ask. I point down toward the lake.

The cormorant spread its great wings with a heave, lifting them from its body, from the water, breaking its bond, and I remember the cormorants near the ocean when I was small.

“Invasive,” he says. He gestures over the horizon, obviously forgetting that we might be invasive, too.

I look at its prehistoric body skim the surface, all that strength, all that precision. I wonder to myself if the cormorants prefer a fresh water or salt water home.

Cleveland, October 2019

Gwendolyn Hashimoto