A few weeks before the semester ended, I was walking across campus through an area endearingly called “The Canyon” and I spotted a pair of black and white birds putzing through the water. I’d never seen birds like them before and I was so excited that I called Oliver and said,”Come to the Blue Bridge, quick! You have to see these birds!”
They were some of the cutest animals I’d ever seen, with disproportionately large heads on little, duck-like bodies. Every few seconds, one would dive head first underwater and pop back up moments later in a different spot while the other stood guard and floated along. Sometimes their return to the surface would be prolonged enough to leave me clutching the cold railing of the bridge in nervous anticipation.
Soon Oliver came running through the cold in a t-shirt and I pointed out the little birds to him, hoping he would be as excited as I was. We watched them for a while, and as they started to drift upstream we followed them on a dirt path that lead along the water. They were enthralling to watch. A friend who had been passing by looked up the birds on her phone and told us they were called Buffleheads, or “Butterballs.”
I could have stood there all day, but Oliver was getting cold. I thought briefly about getting my camera from my dorm and taking some photos of them. What if they were only passing through? But then I thought about my Humanities paper and my physics homework and I decided I couldn’t afford to lose the time.
The next time I saw the buffleheads, I stood and watched for another few minutes. The third time, it was less than that. After a while, I would only stand for a few fleeting moments to watch them dive before continuing on my way. Never once did I go back for my camera.
Then one day after my final paper for humanities was turned in and I had some free time, I thought of the buffleheads, got my Nikon, and walked to the Canyon. Only one of them was there. I raced to remove my lens cap and turn on my camera, but just as I looked through the eyepiece, the bird took flight. I haven’t seen him since.
I never thought I would feel remorse about such a petty thing as photographing some bulb-headed little duck. But I can’t stop thinking about it. I was so caught up in schoolwork and stress and what I needed to do that I couldn’t take a few minutes just to taste the breeze and savor the precious moments that make life worth living.
So I suppose the buffleheads are my New Year’s Resolution, loath as I am to label it as such. This year, I want to take nothing for granted. I want to capture all the buffleheads just as they take wing, all the sunlight filtering through the bright red leaves of the Japanese maple outside the Physics building, all the fleeting lines of poetry that drift across my consciousness.
My camera and I share more regrets, but they are in the past now. What matters is that I have made the conscious decision not only to do my best to see and appreciate the beauty of the world around me, but to photograph it too.
Now I have my priorities straight.
Until next time,