Sellwood #1

Out the door in running clothes (including my trusty Brooks shoes – I’m still getting used to the new Nikes), as I pass the house two doors down, I see two ladies standing in their driveway. In their late 50s or early 60s, they’re dressed in simple cotton skirts and blouses, and each has a scarf covering their hair.

They’re part of several families where the men always dress in slacks and white shirts, and the women always wear dresses and scarves on their heads. I’ve seen them on Friday nights, joining the other families from my block and elsewhere, going to the fenced-off building at the end of the street.

The building is large, with a large parking lot, but there are no signs or other markings to identify it. I’ve often thought it was a church, or a meeting hall of some kind, and have been curious, intensely curious, about the private people that march in, and dress so… antiquely. The younger generation talk without an accent, so they’re not immigrants or an isolated ethnic culture. The house on the end of the block, with another family of similar fashion and habits, often emanates piano music, but I can’t say that I’ve ever heard the sounds of a radio or TV from it. But they have cars; I’ve seen the young girls, or an older woman I take to be the mom, out washing their mini-van, but still in a dress and with a kerchief over her hair.

I’ve nodded a hello in the past, sometimes in my street clothes, sometimes, as today, in my running clothes, and I’ve often wondered if they think me immodest in shorts and a t-shirt.

Today, though, on my way past them, the two ladies are standing in their driveway. One of them holds a pair of field glasses, and on a tripod there sits a small telescope, pointed at the sky. It’s about 5:00 PM, and still daylight, and warm. I notice them, and they smile at me.

In perfect English, the lady with the binoculars says, “Do you want to see something? There’s a science lesson going on.”

Because of my previous assumptions my first thought is that this is some kind of religious pitch. But since I’m still learning to say “yes” to the universe, I nod and approach them.

“Just take a look there,” she says, pointing at the telescope. I move around. It points up and to the south and east. I look up in the sky but see nothing. “Just put your eye to the scope,” the lady says. “I’m not going to say anything until you look.” She seems to be enjoying this.

I look, and see, not the Moon, or some celestial object or event, but a large bird of prey, on top of a telephone pole.

“Oh,” I say, astonished. “An osprey!”

“Yes!” the lady says. “You missed him eating his dinner. He had a salmon, a big one,” she holds her hands two feet apart. “He was tearing into that!”

“That’s awesome!” I say. I point west, towards the river. “He has a nest down in Oaks Bottom. I’ve seen it.”

“I wonder what he’s doing up here? And why is he eating it here, and not in his nest?”

“I don’t know.” I want to get going on my run, start to walk away, laughing at myself and my weird notions about these ladies. Other than their way of dress, they seem quite ordinary. “Thank you.” I’m thanking them for the opportunity to see the osprey, and for the opportunity to talk to them, all at the same time.