Sunday, July 29, 2012
I felt it yesterday for the first time. On a sunny, 80 degree day in July, the light and air held hints of a changing of seasons. Shadows were a bit longer, the blue of the sky gone from new denim to faded, the heat scalloped around the edges from tiny bites of cold. While not a date on my calendar, every year that day presents itself to me in a clear and unmistakable way. Some years it feels like a warning. Some years a gift. This year, as with so many things viewed through my older and wiser heart, it's both.
Technically, summer isn't even half over. Still, fall's approach is unmistakable. The greens are more subdued. Vivid blossoms that heralded the season's arrival are now brown. And the bright unlimited possibilities of June and early July are now softened with a whisper of endings carried on afternoon breezes.
For the first time, my awareness of the transition is happening at the same time of another huge awareness. Everywhere I look, no matter where I am, the air (and the ground, and every twig and solid surface in between) is full of fledgling birds.
Fledgling sightings are among my favorite things in life. I love their downy, wing-flapping awkwardness as they learn to fly, and learn that the bird next to them is not going to put food into their gaping beaks. They arrive in our feeder area in what appear to be an entire nest unit, a family exploring the world together for the first time, adults finally able to be more concerned about feeding themselves than their offspring.
This is what I've spotted in the last week: Two hummingbirds, one dipping into my bee balm while the other zoomed in a perfect pendulum swing above, one doggedly following the other when it few away. A half dozen Steller's Jays, all with top notches looking more Don King than the Elvis look of jay adulthood, scratching at the ground, hopping frantically after the adults, still not quite believing they're not going to be fed. Mourning Doves flying up from the driveway in front of my car, barely clearing the ground. Black-headed Grosbeaks cheeping loudly from the sweet gum tree, scooting out on the edge of branches, and making death-defying wing-assisted leaps at the feeders, sometimes landing and sometimes overshooting and ending up on the clothesline.
A couple of days ago, as I drove to town, I noticed a large bird perched on a low snag very close to the road. Definitely not a usual resting or hunting place for birds of prey. When I stopped and rolled my window down, I saw more fluff than feather, smudged grays and browns not quite emerged into the defining marks of a Red Tail Hawk. It occurred to me as I watched him in amusement and wonder, that I've never seen a fledgling hawk before. New happens every day, small miracles showing up out of the blue, no matter the season.
Summer is ending, as it always does. In a couple of weeks I'll start thinking serious teacher thoughts again, and the hours of freedom in my days will grow ever shorter along with the hours of daylight. For now each day is still more summer than anything else, so full of its own form of air and light and flight, offered for the exact and unique and unrepeatable gifts it brings.
I hold the picture of the Red Tail, launching himself into the air, great wings pushing gravity away as he wheeled away from me and into a life's waiting promise.