Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Auggie's Bogwalk

Augie's Boardwalk

On January 29, when my friend Erik Bruhnke and I went to the bog, my loveliest moments of the day were at the Fringed Gentian Bog, named for an ethereally beautiful wildflower found in this part of the Sax-Zim Bog. The birding was nice and low-key, with chickadees everywhere and finches twittering all along as we walked along a lovely boardwalk called Auggie’s Bogwalk. 

Common Redpoll

It ended at a feeding station teeming with redpolls, Pine Grosbeaks, and a small display case filled with hand-carved owls and an invitation to take one home. 

Augie's Boardwalk

Auggie’s Bogwalk was built and named in memory of Augustus James Feth, a baby who died the day he was born, August 14, 2018. My grandson Walter was born exactly two years later, on August 14, 2020. Reading about Auggie called to mind Russ’s and my fears during our daughter’s long and arduous labor, and then our intense joy when her healthy baby was born. Standing there, the cheerful twitterings of redpolls and Pine Grosbeaks filling the air, I was filled with gratitude for all I’ve been given; sorrow for Auggie, his parents, and family; and deeply-felt gratitude to Auggie’s great-grandfather, Bob Briski, who had carved each of those owls one by one, creating a warm and loving tribute to Auggie with these treasures, so freely given to hundreds of strangers, springing from his own grief and loss.

In this sacred place, Bob Briski’s lovely tribute to a baby who never had a chance to see birds touched my heart and soul. Knowing how much my own baby grandson loves looking at birds, I felt even more acutely the tragic loss of his great-grandson. Walter’s favorite birds are chickadees, so I was happy that Auggie’s place was so filled with these delightful baby-pleasers. And Walter has seen lots of eastern cottontails during his own short life and makes adorable bunny sniffing sounds whenever he sees a bunny or a picture of one. Fittingly, Auggie’s Bogwalk happens to be the best place in the entire Sax-Zim Bog to see snowshoe hares. Erik and I didn’t see one on this trip, but I love imagining them hopping about on and under the boardwalk, brightening Auggie’s spirit. 

I treasure the owl carving I took home. I’m keeping it in a place of honor on my desk, reminding me to hold my own grandbaby tighter as I think of the unparalleled generosity of a man who found a way to bring joy and light to others from his own unimaginable loss.

Owl carved by Bob Briski in memory of his baby great-grandson