Saturday, December 22, 2012

Brother Hawk


            I do not say he waits for me. But our paths cross.
            More often, perhaps, than chance can account for.
            We keep the bird feeder in the place I sometimes refer to as the berry garden because that's where the raspberry bushes grow thick and impassably thorny in the summer. Some tall bush blueberry plants grow there too, but they supply berries only to the birds. And high above is the mulberry tree, which turns the ground below purple in June, so for most of the year this part of the garden is bird central.
            When the raspberry bushes run out of berries, around November, I cut down the canes so we can get to the birdfeeder to begin filling the neighborhood birds with sunflower seeds. This year, out of sloth, I've neglected cutting the thorny canes though we fill the birdfeeder any way. An active birdfeeder means plenty of seeds on the ground, so the squirrels take a lively feeder as an open invitation for them too. When they see birds hopping on and off they think, 'damn, maybe something good's happening down there, I gotta go back there and check that out.'
            You may remember, dear ones, that I found Brother Hawk sitting on a high lamp post on Quincy Shore Drive, making sure the harbor wasn't overrun with mice; looking for all the world like a great hawk-faced totem on top of a very tall pole.
            On our next encounter he took me completely by surprise, dashing out from somewhere and breezing plast me as I walked the harbor-marsh trail, looking inland toward the tree line where, in the past, raptors tend to perch to get an eyeful of any movement in the marsh. How far did he have to go to glide past me like that? I don't know since he was close, some 20 to 30 feet away when he cruised past and I caught him in the corner of my eye before whirling around to follow his disappearance once more into the green maze of the tall evergreens and bare tops of the hardwoods.
            The last time, the most recent transit in the marsh, came again as a surprise. He broke from cover in a place I would never expect to find a hawk, at the back side of the trail surrounded by waves of cordgrass. I never would have seen him there, but he can't see to hunt from there either. He shot off and was long gone in seconds, alerted no doubt to the sound my footsteps.
            Of course maybe he'd already done his hunting. Did I interrupt a late lunch? an early dinner?
            But, oh, brother hawk, was it you -- or some fellow flying predatory prince of the skies -- who visited our berry garden a week ago, spoiling the midday seed-peck for the lunch crowd of sparrows, finches, chickadees, gray and brown fellows of the multiple species I can't recognize, and the occasional cardinal to brighten the scene up? They gather heavily at the feeder at times, this was one of them,in part because I have kept it filled for the pleasure of their avian company.
            Are you stalking me, oh majestic predatory one? Or did fate, mere accident, or a sharp-eyed god's-eye view from the friendly skies of densely populated Quincy tell you that small, winged appetizers lay unsuspectingly below?
            If it was you, and I'm far from sure, you knew me when I appeared, bounding from cover onto the front porch, camera in hand, because you straightway abandoned your refuge in the thick-leaved rhododendron to soar into the neighbor's tree.
            I snapped you there.
            There! You're it.
            But I'm sure you will get me back.