The courage to begin


By Janice Lindsay, Contributing Writer

Janice Lindsay writes about finding the courage to begin.
Janice Lindsay

Pia the young osprey perched at the edge of a massive nest constructed atop a pole on an island in Maine’s Muscongus Bay. Alone, she peered over the narrow inlet between her island and the forested mainland, and to the wider bay beyond. She flapped her wings and jumped, lifting herself above the nest, hovering. She was practicing for the day when she would leave the nest and soar into the skies. 

She clearly believed that she wasn’t ready to take that long step off the edge.

Can’t we all understand her hesitation? Haven’t we all been a little afraid to take that first step into whatever unknown we have chosen? (I wanted very much to marry the man I loved, but was I really ready?)

Pia was the youngest of three siblings. The others had already fledged. Her siblings and parents returned at times, but Pia spent most of her time alone, watching, practicing, almost leaving but never doing it.

Pia had a worldwide community of admirers cheering her on. I know all this because the Maine Audubon Society had placed a camera next to the nest. The camera caught the nest and the peaceful inlet, where Pia and we could see a few small boats moored below her.

We had all watched the nest even before there were eggs, day and night (infrared camera), worrying together, asking questions of the osprey experts. We saw the eggs, we watched them hatch, we knew the chicks when they were tiny, scrawny, and helpless, begging for food.

They had attentive, experienced parents. Mother usually stayed with the chicks while father hunted for fish. She would tear off tasty morsels of his catch and feed the chicks, seeming to keep only the tough and stringy bits for herself. At first, we watchers feared that little Pia would not get enough to eat, jostled by her stronger siblings. But Mom was paying attention, and Pia thrived.

The chicks watched their mother and began to imitate her. They picked up bits of fish that she dropped. They rearranged sticks in the nest, copying her housekeeping chores.

Ospreys are magnificent: two feet long, wingspread up to six feet, hawk-like profile. Adults are dark brown with a black mask and pale undersides. Young ospreys have brown wings speckled in a pale, scale-like pattern. They live near water. They search for fish near the surface. When they spot one, they dive feet first, snatch the fish, and fly away.

We human observers invested a little of ourselves in this family’s life.

Maybe we’ve been the oldest, taking out first flights while our younger siblings watched in awe and envy, as the osprey chicks seemed to do. Maybe we’ve been the youngest or weakest, trying to catch up. Maybe we’ve been the parents, tending to a little brood, constantly scanning the horizon for anything that might threaten them.

Maybe we’ve been Pia, on the edge of our own unknown, preparing to take that giant step — into marriage, a career, parenthood, a new home, a new hobby, a new friendship, a trip to a place we’ve never visited.

Early one morning, Pia perched on the wooden brace that jutted from beneath the nest. She paced, facing first one way then the other. She spread her beautiful, powerful wings in practice flutters.

Then she took that one giant, irrevocable step into the unknown. She dropped gently toward the water. Then she swooped up and soared over the bay. 

She had found the courage to take that first step, the most daunting part of any adventure, as we all must.




Time for a spot of tea (

Peace. Love. Ukulele. (

Always one more (weird) thing (