Congregation of coots

My study, where I read and write and pray, is set on a cliff overlooking a mountain lake. Each morning I sit at my window and watch the lake fill up with light. It is a quiet place and spacious. A mountain chickadee and red-breasted nuthatch show up most mornings, embroidering the silence with their chatter. On a recent morning I had Psalm 16 open in my lap, puzzling in a desultory way over an odd Hebrew phrase I had never noticed before.

Then I was distracted by a noise down on the lake. Coots, about 80 of them, dropped out of the air and noisily splashed down into the water before me. In 30 some years of birdwatching I have never paid much attention to coots. They have never seemed worthy of attention. American coots, also called mud hens, are stubby, awkward little water birds, sooty black with a touch of white at their bills. And dimwitted. Flighty and silly. The boobs of the bird kingdom.


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