Basketball and Chirping Birds on the First Day of Spring

Bald eagle helps herald in the first day of spring
Bald eagle helps herald in the first day of spring, Photo:

First thing I do when I wake up in the morning is brush my teeth, comb my hair, get dressed and go out into my backyard and play basketball. I have a backboard attached to my garage.

It’s been an awful March. I could only shoot hoops maybe once every three days—between the nor’easters. I shoot layups, foul shots, shots from the corner, even hook shots, one after the other for about 20 minutes. I’ve been doing this for years. It’s great exercise. It’s good for stamina, balance, depth perception, reflexes, movement, wind, your heart, even upper-body strength. I quit soon after I break a sweat.

During these past brutal days of winter, it’s been a lonely business. It’s cold, the wind howls, the branches in the trees brush and tingle against one another. There’s not a living creature in sight.

But now, quite suddenly, this morning—Sunday, March 25—it’s spring. I grab my ball, go out the side door and start to play. Surprise! There’s a big audience of birds out there. They are everywhere, fluttering in the trees, calling to one another, zipping this way and that with great joy and cheerfulness, little chickadees, robins and cardinals, woodpeckers and crows. They’re back. Let’s get started.

I take a jump shot and it hits the rim, short. I take a great windmill hook shot and it bangs off the backboard. I try a layup and it’s long and bounding down the driveway. I chase the ball, round it up, and, dribbling on the way back, fire a three pointer from way out that misses everything. Air ball.

Come on, Dan, you can do it. We’re here for you. Let’s give him a round of applause. Hooray! So I dribble in and do a backhanded layup and swish, in it goes.

Way to go, Dan.

High above us, two giant birds, just off the sunshine, hover in the lonely wind up there like giant kites. If they had white chests, they’d be osprey. These have black chests. They are eagles, creatures with hooked beaks and six-foot wingspans. A nasty bunch, looking for breakfast. They are looking down with those beady orange eyes, focusing, searching amongst the branches of the trees. It will be easy pickings. But not just now. Me and my basketball make lots of noise and are here to protect.

In the end, however, breathing hard, I finish my game and retreat back into the house. Bye, everybody. Good luck. From inside, the sound is softer, but it’s still there, this other game continuing on, the cheerful, chattery cheeping of one bird to another about this springtime, arriving this morning, and what that means here in the woods just off Three Mile Harbor, where it’s whatever it is and all I want to know is the nice part about it.

Thanks, everybody.

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