Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Hawk

By Patrick J. Walsh

There is a short bridge along the path of my daily walk; it parts the lake in the park at a point where the water is at is narrowest, dividing the upper and lower portions of the pond with a picturesque waterfall.

On a typical day, as I start across the bridge, I place my foot carefully on the first wood plank. I begin as close to the near side as possible, so I can measure out the distance each day from one end of the bridge to the other. It is normally nine long strides the first time across, unless there is ice or snow or slippery rain.

On subsequent crossings, it is often a step or two more, as my stride shortens and my breath quickens with the exertion of my exercise.

On one recent day, as I approached the bridge, a sudden commotion in the brush on the near lower bank startled me out of my normal routine. I turned slightly, trying to locate the source of the disturbance; I had a vague intimation of upward motion.

Then, as though risen out of some ancient lyric once warbled around a primitive campfire in the halcyon days of a younger time, there appeared a bird — a large bird, proud and solemn in its shift from the moist bank to the thin limb of a tree, some ten or twelve yards from where I stood.

Although my inner balance was momentarily set askew by the sudden manifestation of feathers and flight, my presence within the sweep of his vision seemed not to matter in the least to him.

...there appeared a bird, proud and solemn...

His indifference briefly brought to mind the spectral namesake of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven:

“Not the least obeisance made he; 
not an instant stopped or stayed he;
but with mien of lord or lady, 
perched above my chamber door, —”

— but this was no mere specter, nor gothic emblem of despair; and perched not in the sad den of mourning, but instead resplendent against the blue sky and the high clouds on the bright sunny day in early Spring, this bird in the park was the majestic icon of ideas too big to grasp without a great deal of thought.

Among my initial reactions, there was the assumption, for whatever reason, of his being male; and I also assumed, despite the paucity of my knowledge of the subject, that he was most probably a hawk. To me he simply looked like a hawk, as a hawk would appear in my imagination if I were to conjure an image based on memories of having seen such a bird in the past, in a book perhaps, or maybe on television.

Not that any of my assumptions or curiosities — what sort of creature he was, or why his sudden appearance immediately aroused in me the aura of poetry and the aromas of summer days in childhood — were of any concern to him, of course. He was simply living proof of the wisdom of Providence in the establishment of a bulkhead of contrasting experience and abilities between human beings and the creatures of the air and water and woods.

Even now — as I recall the wonder I felt as I looked up at him, he perched high above me in the tree, me imagining the sensation of his gliding effortlessly along the edge of the air on the trailing path of a warm wind — even now, I am aware of a certain sense of divine humor at the thought of my being the superior being in the system whose circumstances gave rise to our unexpected encounter.

And still I ponder, while he has no need of thought, as he makes his way effortlessly forward...

© 2012 Patrick J. Walsh

Other Essays in this Series:

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful. Once on a moonlit beach, I saw a perched owl, breathtaking in its majesty.