Saturday, January 5, 2013

Hunting This Day

In my alone time, I am not very good at living in the present.  Too frequently my thoughts turn to past days; mostly toward losses of family and the sweetness of memories they provided.  And sometimes my thoughts turn to friends and loves of days long ago. I wonder the fullness of their lives that I did not share.  And on occasion I allow myself to contemplate my possible future days. I’m not very good at seeing the vibrancy of future tense, unless I’m planning a next voyage for the condo-on-wheels.

But if I focus this first writing of 2013 on today, I best frame it as a wonderfully rainy RGV day, following a cold, rainy night.  A past day and night of slow consistent rain brought welcome relief to this parched, drought-stricken habitat that uniquely defines the southernmost tip of Texas. 
By this day’s afternoon the rain slowed to a mere threat.  I welcomed opportunity to step outside the Airstream, layering into my warmest valley clothes (that would do little good in most U.S. winter locales). I walked my binoculars into Bentsen State Park for an afternoon of birding. The local residents seemed pleased with the rain-drenched feeding ground: Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Orange-crowned Warblers, Green Jays and Altamira Orioles were bold and abundant.  And although I delighted in watching their chase for berries and insects, nothing better defines the sense of living in the present than watching the Avian Hunter seek out its day’s daily bread. 

I was frozen in the present tense as I watched a mature Cooper’s Hawk (and a juvenile!) explode upon a group of anything but “plain” Chachalacas.  The verbal outcry of a Chachalaca group is anything but subtle. They are loud and they scream fear and alarm in a way that is heard throughout the neighborhood.  Their mothers taught them well.
But the cacophony of sounds from the fearful group was punctuated by the screams of the hawk’s chosen prey.  I froze in the present as a turkey-sized Chachalaca screamed and “ran” for cover in the thickest of bare branches of the wooded habitat.  The agile hunter, the beautiful Cooper’s was less than five yards behind, matching the Chachalaca’s scream with the piercing cry of a hawk in pursuit of its prey.  I watched within 30 yards of the chase. 

The story of the hunt needs no ending.  I quietly watched with a belly that was full from the convenience of grocery products and microwave cooking.  But my glimpse into this day’s avian hunt for daily bread reminded me of my own wastefulness with the present of each day, most especially each time I give chase to the past or to the future.

Methinks I am more akin to a Willet than a Cooper’s Hawk.  But watching the beauty of this day’s two Cooper’s reminded me of my recent photo of a Willet, taken just last month while birding at Galveston Island State Park.
This GISP Willet flew away as I quietly approached:

Like this Willet, I have a tendency to fly away.  I’m really good at flying away.  This year, I want to work on flying toward--with nothing more (or less) to fly toward-- than the present day.

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