After a long bus ride, I stand at the apex of Pointe du Raz, one of the westernmost points in France. The strong winds blow in the crisp, salty smell of the Atlantic Ocean and whip against my hair, face, and clothes and the rocky cliffs. Waves thrash below. The Bretons borrowed the word "raz" from Norman, meaning, "strong current of water," and when you stand at the height of Pointe du Raz, the name feels both obvious and ominous. Before and below me are rock outcrops leading to Le Vieille lighthouse and, beyond that, the Atlantic. Looking in that direction, you sense the isolation that make this region feel like the end of the earth.
On one of the first truly warm days of spring, I took my infant son for a walk around the neighborhood lake. We passed what I thought was a flock of common ducks. But on another look, my eye was drawn to the ducks' fanned hoods, black-and-white markings, and chestnut flanks. I approached them for a closer look, smelling the muddy ripeness of the water's edge. Soon the pair of Hooded Merganser and other ducks joined a flock of geese onshore, where we watched them until they waddled back into the water and swam away.