by Winnie Kay
Summer ends for the Bird Lady of Swan Lake.
Most young folk dream of success and happiness for their future. The Bird Lady of Swan Lake was no different. She grew up in East Texas where she met and married her Prince Charming.They moved to the big city and worked hard to provide for their little family. When time allowed, she would stop, look up, and watch the birds soar in the smog-filled skies of Houston. Filled with dreams of a house by the sea, her mind carried her into the soft summer breezes of the Gulf where she glided serenely over the waves. Loy was one of the lucky dreamers. Hers came true. On a weekend visit to the beach with her family, Loy discovered Swan Lake, and she was determined it was there she would build her dream house.
Swan Lake was beautiful all year round, but in the summer, it was alive with the swooping sounds of the wings of egrets diving for their supper. The flying red snapper breaking through the surface of the shimmering water seemed happy to oblige the feathered feasters. The majestic Blue Herons and the pouch-billed Pink Pelicans, Pinkies Loy called them, filled the vista—their long graceful legs stalking through the shallow lake.
Loy, an office manager, and her adoring husband, Bill, a hardware salesman, worked long hours to finance the construction of their dream home. After completion, the happy couple and their sons spent every weekend enjoying Swan Lake. Lois cried every Sunday evening when she had to pack up and go back to her job in the city.
The thirty-foot-high pilings supporting the north side of Loy’s beach house stood directly in the sandy bottom of Swan Lake on the Intracoastal Waterway between Freeport and Galveston Island in a little community called Surf Side Village. The house stood alone, out on the point of marsh land on the waterway. The south of the house faced the Gulf of Mexico.
Their summer vacations were the happiest times of the year. Loy spent the day on the wrap-around porch of the house, watching the birds flock around the feeders she installed.
She took great joy watching the martins build their nests in the bird houses she erected all around the porch. In the spring, the baby martins hatched, and, in early summer, Loy squealed with delight as she watched the babies learn to fly. If one of the young failed in its attempt to hover in midair, Loy rescued the fallen aviator, attended to any injuries, and tucked it safely back in the bird house, much to the relief of the concerned mom.
At the end of her summer vacations, Loy would cry again because she had to go back to the city and leave her martins, some of which she had named.
The years passed. Her sons had grown into fine young men with families of their own, and retirement finally came for Loy and Bill. They sold their house in the city, packed up all they owned, and permanently moved to their little dream house on Swan Lake. That was the happiest day of Loy’s life. Some of her city friends, me included, were glad to help with the move. “Now,” Loy announced to us as we unpacked dishes, “it will be summer all the time.”
Loy reveled in her freedom from city life. She invited me, often, to visit and stay with her on Swan Lake. My favorite summers were spent on that porch, drinking mimosas, watching the birds, sharing the breathtaking sunsets over the water, and talking into the wee hours of the night.
To be called “friend” by Loy was an honor. She never judged or criticized. She spoke softly, with directness, honesty, truth and mostly love. I could tell her about a problem I was having, and she would smile and say, “Winnie, let’s talk about this. Surely, our two great minds can figure this out.” She helped many of her friends through some tough times.
The porch was thoroughly covered, on all sides of the beach house, with plants—hundreds of plants. Loy had names for them too, just like the martins. She talked to them as she pruned and watered them. One early August, she found herself getting tired and unable to make her rounds of watering. She noticed a pain in her right side, but thought little of it.
A week later, the pain unbearable, Bill rushed Loy off of her porch and down the steep steps of the house. Terrified of the cries coming from this beautiful woman whom he had adored since he was fourteen, Bill drove her to the nearest hospital. As Loy moaned, Bill prayed. He prayed like he never prayed before, and he drove like a madman.
The news was bad—malignant tumor—stage four colon cancer. Emergency surgery was performed and the doctors did what they could, sewed her up, and sent her home.
Loy was happy to be back in her dream house with her doting husband. The pain was minimal with the help of the drugs, and she was able to concentrate on the beauty laid out before her. As she slumped weakly in her favorite chair on the north porch overlooking her lake, she watched the sunset over the waterway. The late summer sky was explosive with pastel colors reflected off of the swirling clouds. Loy noticed the young martins proficiently flying through the twilight. She smiled remembering their clumsiness just a few months ago. “Soar on, little martins. Delight in your flight. Winter is upon us. This is the end of summer.” Loy closed her eyes and touched the clouds with her martins.
A tribute to my friends
Bill passed away 9/20/11
Loy passed away 6/30/12