By SUZANNE MILLER
The story of my birth always included reference to the fact that my father was relegated to a bare bones waiting room in St. James Hospital in Butte, Montana, while my mother disappeared behind the closed doors of the delivery room. In those days, hospital policies strictly forbid expectant fathers from participating in any meaningful way. They were bit players who barely made it on stage.
What my dad never did convey in these birth stories was the degree of anxiety that he must have felt during those longs hours of waiting. He was totally helpless and only minimally informed about happenings that would forever change his life. What tension!
I am reminded of this because for the last several weeks, I have been sitting in my own waiting room of sorts anticipating the hatching of two eggs that my wonderful osprey friends and local nest neighbors, Ozzie and Harriet, laid in late April. Like my father, I have absolutely no role in all of this except to watch and wait and WORRY.
My waiting room consists of my computer logged on to the internet site where I can see inside the nest via the web camera we installed last year. Before the camera, we would simply go about our ranch business occasionally glancing at the nest in the hopes of seeing some little osprey heads popping into view. We didn’t wring our hands over every little aspect of the hatching. And were no heads to ever appear, we would have quietly accepted the fact that chicks were not to be that year.
With the installation of the camera, all this has changed. I now find myself obsessed with their hatching progress – and I am not alone in my obsession. Hundreds of kindred souls across the world are also tuned in to the camera watching the ospreys’ every move. We tweet each other; we email each other; we exhale a collective gasp when both osprey parents abandon the nest to fight off intruding bald eagles that fly by and threaten the nest. The eggs are left alone; anything could happen!
Our anxiety is contagious. Through our shared concern, we draw each other deeper and deeper into real and caring relationships – relationships with not only the birds themselves, but with our fellow observers. There is little doubt that I will never have the pleasure of actually meeting Judy, Trisha, Evelyn, Diane, or any of the others frequent tweeters who, along with me, are gathered around their computers in their own waiting rooms watching Ozzie and Harriet’s story unfold. Yet I feel I know them: we all are grateful for Judy’s technical abilities to create short video clips of the most dramatic nest moments to share on YouTude; Trisha’s sense of humor and adventure comes through clearly in her tweets; Evelyn hails from the east coast of Canada and notices every little detail of the nest action; and Diane seems to love watching the many small birds that have taken up residence in the basement apartments within the ospreys’ enormous nest.
What a strange, new, and wonderful world! Like many people my age (don’t ask!), I have been leery of the isolating potential of computers and the internet. I worried that we would all spend too much time connected to the internet and too little time connected to each other. What I completely failed to understand was how powerful shared internet experiences can be in drawing people together.
In setting up the osprey camera up at our ranch, we hoped to support the University of Montana’s osprey research program and to share these incredible birds with the world. It never occurred to us that we would be attaching ourselves ever more strongly to Ozzie and Harriet and to their many internet followers across the globe.
When a big box of chocolate covered macadamia nuts arrived from Salliane in Hawaii as a thank you gesture for our hosting the camera, it finally dawned on me that the ospreys’ internet presence was playing a much larger role in our lives that ever anticipated. They have brought the world to our doorstep. Thank you Ozzie and Harriet!
Now it’s back to the waiting room to keep my eyes open for cracks in those two eggs!
SuzAnne Miller is the owner of Dunrovin Ranch, a small guest ranch nestled against the Bitterroot River and the Sapphire Mountains, south of Missoula. She shares her home with her husband of 42 years, 2 sons, 20 equines, 2 or 3 dogs, 2 osprey (Ozzie and Harriet) and hopefully, two soon-to-be osprey chicks. (We’ll need to name them, so be watching for our contest.)