Daytime yearns to reach noon. Cloudless blue stretches across the sky in all directions giving way to bright sunshine that blankets the earth. A warm breeze from the south carries with it yet more humidity, moisture added to an already hot and moist atmosphere. Despite the early hour, summer temperatures reign. I stand and let sunshine and gently moving air caress my skin.
Remaining motionless, I quietly listen to birds singing in a cacophony of warbles, trills and melodies. Their songs carry on the wind and fill the day with life. Sweeping through the sky in graceful gestures and abrupt maneuvers, they flit from tree to rooftop to tree. Innumerable species abound in this place, each a master of its own destiny and each blessed with the enviable gift of flight. Their freedom in the air gives way to wistful fantasies of joining them. I dream of leaping from the ground and finding my way into the firmament without need of clunky mechanical machines. Ah, what a wonderfully intoxicating thought.
Overhead, a hawk glides effortlessly into sight as it swims through the atmosphere upward into the sky, a raptor taking its place in the heavens in preparation for the hunt. Mockingbirds chase the predator as it climbs ever higher. Only a few times do they come close enough to interfere with the ascent, but the hawk recovers quickly with minor course corrections and continues becoming a speck at heights normally reserved for the clouds. In great sweeping circles it rises without ever flapping its wings. Like humans sticking their hand out the window of a moving car and letting the wind blow through splayed fingers, I see the hawk’s wings and recognize the outstretched feathers at their tips. What a magnificent hunter this creature is, what a splendid example of conservation of energy in seeming contradiction to its movement. I watch silently as the predator moves over the lake and eventually out of sight.
The fence surrounding my patio becomes my resting place as I lean against it. With the sun kissing my skin and the breeze embracing me, I close my eyes momentarily and escape the world. I imagine I am the hawk soaring high above. I hang my head forward as my vision of the me-hawk takes shape. I imagine myself carried on the wind and thermals, gliding effortlessly to heights above any challenger, my superior vision consuming all that can be seen. On this day, not even clouds fight me for my place here.
Suddenly, the stir of activity across the way rouses me from my daydreaming and I open my eyes behind their cloak of sunglasses to see what I might see. Sitting on her porch swing, one of my neighbors rests comfortably with book in hand in the shade of her own patio. Her white ankle-length skirt hangs over her crossed legs and rustles casually in the gentle wind. It, too, seems to enjoy the day and its lazy demeanor. She sits back on the swing, her fitted light-blue blouse undoubtedly cool and relaxed against her skin. I watch as she absently bounces one of her sandal-clad feet while it dangles in the air. Slowly, almost unconsciously, her right hand moves and methodically turns the page, her attention swimming easily through the words spilling out before her. How relaxing to see her carefree afternoon taking shape.
Her dog is perched beside her blithely enjoying this sedate existence. He watches carefully as the birds flutter about and sing in trees only feet away from his position at her side. Ever so gently, he rocks back and forth as she swings them in tiny movements of vast contentment. He reacts from time to time as some new little thing happens, perhaps a squirrel or a bird venturing close enough to be of interest, perhaps even a leaf blowing by to which he might give chase. They fail to spur him to more action than a simple glance, perhaps a muffled, halfhearted bark lacking sufficient energy to be threatening. If he raises his head from its place resting on his crossed front legs dangling from the swing, it is only a brief movement, almost an afterthought before it begins. He is her sentry, yes, but even he recognizes the lack of danger and uses the moment to shift his position only slightly so that he might be more comfortable and able to rest his head on her leg. It is a loving movement, one of absolute trust, and I hear the deep breath and following sigh telling the world he’s in heaven.
She moves her right hand again, this time to the dog’s head, and she gently rubs and scratches him as his eyes close in absolute joy. From this distance, I am still able to hear her loving words to him.
“Are you comfortable?”
“A nap sounds great, doesn’t it?”
He stretches his entire body into rigid writhing. The movement is over as quickly as it begins. All four of his paws now dangle off the swing, her leg providing a pillow for his head, and another deep breath and sigh tell me he is as happy as any dog can be. She rubs his head and neck once more before reaching again to turn the page of her book. Her eyes never leave the pages as she transfers the book into her right hand and reaches for her glass of iced tea with her left.
I watch only a moment more before returning my own gaze back to the sky and the overflowing nature around me. Just before I close my eyes again, I see the hawk circling high above the lake.
[photos of a red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)]