Johns Hopkins Magazine -- February 1997
Johns Hopkins Magazine





S C I E N C E    &    T E C H N O L O G Y

Author's Notebook
Raptor Romance
By Melissa Hendricks

BALTIMORE, MID-JANUARY: Although the view out my window is now leafless, dreary, gray, if I close my eyes I can still imagine the sun's rays massaging my back as I walked along the beach on Assateague Island. For while a reporting assignment is what drew me to Assateague (namely, scientists' efforts to track peregrine falcons with satellites), the island's sensuality is what stays with me. Of the stories I've written for Johns Hopkins Magazine, Raptor Romance was one of the most entrancing.

It helped to be on Assateague at the tailend of the vacation season. The beach had already started to reclaim its innate serenity, with wave after wave washing away the summer's markings. Here, I felt freed of life's quotidien decisions and "important" tasks Should I defrost chicken or lamb chops? Plastic or paper at the grocery store? The sun and wind ironed out my the wrinkles, and humbly reminded me I am just a pea on this planet.

I began, in fact, to consider whether I really wanted to go back to my hermetically-sealed building at Hopkins. Maybe I should plonk down right here, and refuse to leave until given an assignment counting clumps of beach grass.

Not that following Bill Seegar around for a couple of days was entirely relaxing. He lives life to the hilt, in all ways. When I first witnessed his Indy- 500 driving skills, as passenger on one of the survey trucks, he said (as if it were a comfort), "We've never flipped one of these things."

Once we were racing to get to the repair shop before closing time to attend to some critical repairs. But Seegar stopped when he saw a fisherman in the surf, his biceps knotted with the strain, try to reel in a Really Big Fish. His line looked ready to snap. In the waves, a red drum fish fought for freedom at the end of the nylon tether. Finally ashore, the fish was declared 50 pounds at least, the kind of fish my brother-in-law calls "good eatin.'" We snapped its picture. It was one of the few moments on that otherwise ephemeral island that could be captured and brought back to the city.