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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

a red tale

there is a giant maple tree that graces cranelegs pond, oh about ten yards from its northwest shore.
majestic is a word that comes to mind.
its limbs are perfectly shaped, although most likely fragile, but you’d never know it from the strength of its presence.
you see, it’s dead.
i know because in the heart of summer, it stands leafless, naked against a canopy of green.
if it were alive, you might imagine it to be in the desperate throes of failing chemo.
fragile and lifeless.

personally, i prefer to think of it as a natural monument to all that is good about the earth.
almost the sort of evidence a silly old agnostic like myself might need to jump aboard the god bandwagon.

and occasionally, as happened just yesterday, its stoic silhouette is broken by the dark bulge of my dear friend, the red-tail hawk, who perches at its top.
with a view down the sloping hilltop to the valley reservoir about three miles below, it is a perfect crow’s nest from which to spy unmindful rodents and rabbits carelessly busying themselves in the bony underbrush and open grass below.

it’s funny really.
the red-tail does nothing more than sharply swivel its head up, down and to either side—its body as rigid as a block of granite.
it has already sized me up many times over, then and several occasions prior.
meanwhile, i stand frozen, unaware of my own breathing, unaware of my own heart beating, unaware of my own existence.
i might just as well be a hare in the clutch of its talons, captive until released or destroyed.

then, without warning, two or three sudden propulsions from its canopy wings and there it is—the flash of its namesake, more orange than red really.
it rises quickly to glide effortlessly across the pond and down the hillside, darting between and maneuvering through trees with a grace and ease that leaves me shaking my head with only a broad smile, as awe will sometimes do to an otherwise self-indulged lout, such as myself.

it dips and rises and dips again, each accompanied by a single pump of its feathered span.
then it is gone, disappearing just over the shallow ridge to the south.

and just like that, i’m dropped.
on my head to be honest.
the impact snaps me to.
i realize i’m breathing, beating and existing again, like a spanked newborn except i'm way older and should know better.
soon the noise and tightening of all that is unimportant, but I have coddled important, comes roaring back.
i kick a nearby stone into the pond, take a parting look at the statuesque maple, pull my collar up and tuck my bare hands in from the heavy slate cold carried in the arms of the late autumn wind.

and i wish i could stay there forever, as i turn to leave for home.

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