Baldwinsville I stopped at Silver Fox Senior Center this spring with my daughter as part of her Girl Scout community project. The staff there was especially excited to show us their view of the Seneca River, noting that they’d spotted bald eagles from time to time. I was surprised to hear it. Bald Eagles have been an endangered species most of my lifetime. In recent years, Department of Conservation programs have helped the eagles make a comeback. They are now numerous enough to be classified “threatened,” rather than the more severe “endangered.”
Some friends had spotted a bald eagle in Lancaster, PA this summer while on vacation. They showed me pictures of the bird, majestic even at a distance. I’d like to see one myself. I’ve stopped back to the senior center a couple times, hoping I’d catch a glimpse of one. A couple residents were happy to share their sightings.
I stopped in, too, just to see the residents. I have always felt calm and comfortable around the elderly. My dad was a pastor, and he used to take me on his nursing home rounds when I was a child. I didn’t like to be touched and held by strangers; not many do. But my dad explained that many elderly folk are lonely and eagerly reach out for connection and conversation. He’d have me take my violin and play the “Twinkle Variations” from room to room. I felt self-conscious and awkward, like some kind of performing monkey.
It was an excellent experience, though, one that I have valued over and over throughout my adult life. At college, I heard about a group that went once a week to sing at the local nursing home. I joined them, schlepping my violin and music stand up a long hill to play for a very appreciative audience. It was there, through the warm acceptance of the seniors and the patience of the guitar players that I first learned to play hymns by ear.