As I say a reluctant farewell to a long, warm summer (which “officially” ends Saturday), my mind wanders back to a July day when time ambled along as it does in childhood, when I turned off the iPod and cellphone, and, along with my spouse, sat on a park bench and did nothing. We were in New York City, on the south side of the famous arch in Washington Square Park — a day made for lemonade and ice cream, sunbathers, chess players, and guitar strummers sitting in the shade. Birdwatchers, too; my spouse had the latter skill and I had the camera. I’d come to see “in person” those two baby hawks, former fluff-balls Boo and Scout, now a pair of fledged juvenile red-tails who’d spent summer in the park learning to fly and hunt with their solicitious parents, Bobby and Rosie. The young take off by August, leaving the home turf to mom and dad and the next brood, so this was our only chance to see the two fledglings.
And I was thrilled when we spotted them. One of the “babies” perched on the arch; one or another flew overhead, demonstrating the elegance of their new-found soaring skills. The camera did the rest. I’ve seen far better pictures of the great birds, but none I’ll cherish more.
To observe these hawks in their fullness of life was an experience of true wonder and it left me with a profound sense of connection to the world. Those two cute roughhousing chicks I’d viewed online every day last spring had grown into a pair of magnificent raptors off to soar in an endless sky. What vitality and wildness in those feather-layered wings, those enormous eyes and majestic profiles, gifts of nature at its most extravagant. Generous, too. Think about it: apart from evolution, there’s no reason why these beautiful creatures have come to live among us in the city. They don’t have to be here. But they are. So much of the world is inexplicable in this way; so much of it is a gift.
You might say that for a moment, our clouded vision cleared, that sitting in the park on a quiet afternoon, we saw into the radiance of the world. Apart from that, we hung out and relaxed.
It was summer’s finest day.