Friday, May 18, 2012

The fifth luminous thing...

Public domain image the red-tailed hawk taking flight next to my car as I drive to work—her heavy struggle to get those first few feet off the ground, those first slow, powerful wingbeats. She is as big as a small dog. I can see her dark back speckled with white, her strong shoulders, her tail feathers spread in a wide, rust-red fan.

I'm startled by the size of her, the burst of wings and lift so close, the cars flying by on both sides. I notice she is carrying her prey, a dark rag of blood and fur and bone the size of a woman's shoe. I see all of this in just a few seconds, and then I'm gone and she's gone.

But the birds are here. They were there when I first woke up this morning, right around 4am. Birds, I thought, singing in the dark? But when I looked—yes, there was just the tiniest bit of light in the east, a feeling more than a seeing, a sense that whatever it is outside, it isn't quite night anymore. Anyway, the birds were singing, just a few to start, a wren perhaps, and maybe some sparrows. The fish crows were next, and by a quarter to five they were talking anxiously from tree to tree in that muttering way they have, like a mob of old men waiting for a bus in the rain.

By the time my car reaches the river I know it's a good day: the hawk is flying off with her breakfast, the sun is spinning orange flame across the sky, and there are birds everywhere—dark ruffled rockets blasting up from the fields and the trees in twos and threes, boisterous, singing their celebration of light, of wings, of the morning.

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