“Sometimes It’s a Hawk. Sometimes It’s Not.”

My husband and I were able to get in an enjoyable dog walk through the woods on Saturday, All Saint’s Day, before the rain began and the colder clime set in. New trees were down across the path, but the view from the hilltop still offered its vista of great Atlantic hitting the marsh edge. While we walked across that hill, a nice hawk of some kind crossed overhead and dove into the high trees across the path from the rather new meadow, created by the “cell” that ripped through here some years ago. All this prompted the husband to utter the above words and flash back to a car journey in the desert southeast of Tucson.

We’d been driving a while, telephone pole after pole marking the miles and giving me, the brand new bride and (thus) bird-watcher-in-training, plenty of practice. I’d always been an observant sort of person, but usually on a more macro-scale: the kind of kid who would spy cool fungi in the grandparent’s woods and then haul them 300 miles to be shared with the class–only the class was a college sophomore biology course. Or I’d notice, like most kids back then, every crack in the public sidewalk. Or my brother and I would haul out the lawn chairs and watch storms darken the skies blowing around Chicago, we settled safe and dry in the maw of our garage.

Perched on these desert poles, however, was bird after bird, hawk after hawk, and I was in training to learn where to look, a skill not just for birding, but probably all of life. As we approached one such pole, however, the conversation took an excited turn and went something like: Me: “It’s another hawk. Yep. It’s a red tail, right? Not a rough legged?” “Probably…no…wait…it’s not a hawk (said the expert)…it’s… a (whoosh, the pole goes by) ….Golden Eagle!”

It was a great moment and we paused roadside to take in the magnificent bird spotted out there near the playa, tumbleweeds making their entrances right on cue coming across the terrain. What’s also wonderful is that the moments like this are accessible in our mind’s eye even thousands of miles and years away. Things are not always what they seem, we remember. it can seem easy to order the wedding photos online, but forgotten passwords and poor trackpads make the simple hard. “Use your laptop,” cries the son when all I really need is an old-fashioned calculator that would ensure accuracy and do the job in half the time. We lamnent, “I’m not getting anything done,” but often, if we slow down and work through the job(s), we can tally up the Done rather than the Undone at the day’s end, and realize we might just be making a bit of progress.

Now the morning sun is working to melt away the signal flakes of snow we had this weekend; I see only a small triangle or two in the shadows of small pines on the playground passing by out my train window. And just as I end this, the lights come back on in the car and we seem to power up again. It feels like a fit for a calm November morning.

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