I’ve long been a skywatcher. Those big ol’ puffy clouds that come in all shapes and sizes are awesome. One will look like the face of a Scottish Terrier before it morphs into the face of an Indian elephant. A ’57 Chevy might be racing the Ford Failure, also known as the Edsel, across the sky. Yes, over the years I’ve seen all manner of creatures and things in the puff of what clouds are made of.
On an early-ish morning bike ride just last week there was not a cloud to be seen, but still I scanned the sky. It was a shade of blue that defies labeling. So beautiful it almost hurts to look at it — that clear expanse of solid color. In my opinion, indigo buntings are some of the most beautiful birds in the world so perhaps my personal name for a sky that color for here and ever after will be indigo, even if that is not what a true artist would call it on his or her palette it can work for me by association.
Call me crazy but I love watching storms. The gray clouds pile up into a purple/black mass and rumble with thunder, lightning will do its zig and zag or just light up the darkness and the rain is relentless. And the wind. I love wind. Unseen yet so powerful. Not that I’m a big fan of destructive wind, the kind that sends the tops of spruce trees through the garage roof or rips the siding off the house, but there is something about wind that just captivates me. That too defies labeling. It has just always been so.
Thursday past I was sitting in the swing watching Phyllis. While its only on occasion that we name wild creatures, our granddaughter caught sight of this particular hawk earlier in the summer and for no particular reason dubbed her Phyllis. Phyllis could be male or female, doesn’t matter as we’ll never get close enough to know, but it’s kind of fun to put a name to it as it’s hovering above. For my purposes I’ll pretend Phyllis is a she. I was at our farm property and had just finished mowing some of the grass. I took a seat in the wooden swing situated between grandma’s lilac bush and crabapple tree with water in hand. There were actually two hawks skimming the hayfield to the east. Hmmm, thought I, recognizing Phyllis immediately by the unusual color of her tail feathers, Phyllis has a friend. They flew in ever expanding circles, never making that rapid plummet to earth that signifies lunch has been sighted. The stranger hawk flew off to the south and disappeared quickly but Phyllis just kept climbing. I wondered what sort of thermal she had caught to carry her so high, wing span fully extended. Was it safe for her? That circling higher and higher until she was but a speck against an enormous white cloud (of no shape whatsoever that I could see)? Wonder how high she is? Thought I. What sort of view does she have from way up there? Thought I. I continued my hydrating while I continued my watching. Lost in the moment. Captivated by the sight of such a relatively small creature against that great expanse where airplanes sometimes fly. Soon she became less a speck and more recognizable as a bird. Yet she maintained a lazy down drift as if she had nowhere to be and nothing important (or unimportant) to do when she got there. I wondered what that would feel like. Me, with my endless lists of this, of that and of the other thing. When she reached treetop level she veered off to the northwest, shrinking as she went. Still I watched until I could see her no more.
I finished my water and fired the mower to life to finish the job at hand all the while wondering if Phyllis was seated somewhere high in a tree just watching the river flow by. I was sure she’d find little joy in the sight of me pushing a lawnmower around, unlike the joy I’d found joy in watching her in awesome flight.
One can learn a lot from a bird.