Coming home from math class, late in the afternoon, I saw a hawk.
Flying up, up and over. Between bands of clouds, far away, a band of blue. The nearer clouds darker, the nearest a dark and glistening galena gray hanging over the highway, draggling its frayed edge just above our heads.
Frayed edge? As if the sky were neatly woven cloth, warp and weft at right angles? I’m translating too politely.
When I see that friable, fractal, weeping edge of cloud, what I see reverberates more gutturally. Not cloth so much as the eroding bank of the sky.
What I see is something up there in the air that feels deeper, visceral, menstrual even. The heavy weight of plum dark clouds waiting to drop more water on this wet world.
It had been raining just earlier, but now the sun came slanting low. Clear light, late in the day, falling the way a sentence falls — left to right.
The hawk, though.
Though it’s not an occasion, not really, seeing a hawk. They live here after all. Are locals, neighbors. From my back step, I’ve watched their slow circling over the new-mown fields down below.
Or biking the dike lands — low marshy miles precariously claimed from the Columbia. Out there, in those utterly quiet miles, hawks, more than once, have let us almost approach them. They will turn their heads, blinking an eye that is correctly baleful, talons gripping the fencepost. We stand back beside our bikes a respectful distance away in a kind of worshipful attendance.
So seeing a hawk — not an occasion. Not really.
Especially not now, this time of year, bird season. When all day the soft calls of birds fill the edges of sound. And when the sky is still dark, their low fluting tells me I’ve let the night slip by again, that dawn is looming and I’ve rendered myself inadequate for the coming day. A day that will be full, everywhere, with birds.
Hopping from twig to twig of the flowering quince, splashing up muddy water in a happy flurry of puddle-bathing. Birds in twosomes, small and tear-shaped, ribboning across the quiet roads. Black crow banking to land in a swanky curvet, long-fingered wing feathers splayed and lustrous.
But the hawk? My heart leapt up at the flying of the hawk. The moment of seeing her upward surge is the same moment of shaping the word.
No static pause waiting for translation. Unlike the paths of airplanes and ships, winds and currents, that I’ve been figuring all afternoon, the vector of the hawk’s flight is a sum of arrowing urges for which there is no satisfactory translation and which I can only ever incompletely name. Appetite. Fear. Anger. Desire. The joy of sudden light.
Enough to send the hawk — pale breast, speckled tail — up into the upper air. Edge feathers for an instant etched against the narrow blue space as she flies over.