Twilight is one of my favorite times of the day, an all-too-short time of the day when the sun's rays burnish the landscape with the rich glow of polished bronze.
There was a slight breeze in the hollow as the dog and I worked our way down the stairway under the cast shadows of tall trees. We were just shy of the metal structure, a wood-planked bridge that crossed over the dry stream bed.
The stream had been flowing recently, though. It had rained earlier in the week, and from where I stood, I could easily see the marks in the mud that had been left by the flow of water. If I had walked down to the bed of sand, gravel, and mud, I am sure I would have seen coyote tracks. This summer has been long and hot, and the coyote folk have ventured down from the surrounding hills looking for water and food.
Coyotes can be curious, sociable creatures. I once saw a coyote approach a group of dog walkers who were deep in conversation at the side of the road. He looked like he wanted to participate. Unfortunately, the group broke up and left before he could introduce himself. He was left alone, puzzled, looking like he wondered if had done something to offend. Those he thought he had offended never noticed that they had missed an opportunity to converse with that wilderness denizen.
On this particular evening, a warm breeze gently wrapped me in what felt like a soft warm blanket.
Cocooned in the comfortable peace of that moment, the dog and I approached the bridge. And in that moment, a hawk swooped in and landed upon the light pole that rises at the entrance to the bridge. About ten feet from where the dog and I stood.
What made the moment memorable, was how the hawk entered the scene in the smooth unreal way a special effects department might accomplish using hidden wires.
Furthermore, the hawk's entrance into my moment was palpable, as if my sense of touch extended outside my body and continued on into the space which the hawk had entered. I had felt its arrival in a palpable accepting way. The experience took my breath away. The dog must have been equally taken aback because it didn't bark, which was unusual.
Hawks have a always been a kind of totem for me. They always see to show up at special moments. As in this particular evening, when I had already noticed the way I felt as if the borders of my flesh blended with the air. (In one sense this is true, for on the atomic level things are not as distinct as our eyes lead us to believe.)
Of course I thought to use my phone to take a picture of the hawk. It was not a large hawk, only about the size of a hunting falcon. Still, its presence was no less impressive. But by the time I got my phone out of my pocket, the hawk flapped its wings, took off, and settled in the shelter of a tree above. I could still see it though, and I so I began to lead the dog to the middle of the bridge where I thought I might still be able to photograph the visitor.
As if sensing my intent, the hawk took off again, leaving me to watch intently as it glided downhill, disappearing in the undergrowth, down the path of the dried up stream bed.
Then, left with that desolation that always seems to accompany such intense experiences, Letting them go and moving on can leave you with a sense of loss, tinged with sadness. I stepped off the bridge and with the dog began the climb up the stairway out of that moment, and into the evening.
I also thought that maybe next time I would be a tad quicker with the camera.
The title of this post and the song I played this past January at the Folk Music Center in Claremont was inspired by Huck Finn and the times I spent on the Mississippi River during summers we visited relatives in Illinois. My uncles had nets and boxes on the river,which is what we always called it: "the river." To my friends, "the river" was the Colorado. But to me, the river was always the Mississippi. Going out on the river was always a high point of our trip. In this song, I tried to create a piece of music that embodied all that. Cairo is the place where the Ohio and the Mississippi meet, where it all comes together.
I play it a little fast here. I was nervous. Yes, still. And I still try to keep the song going with my mouth. I don't know, maybe it works. This does seem to be the first time, I actually have fun. And when I get up, I don't look at the microphone like it said something I didn't like.
Hope you enjoy.
Each time I show up for the open mic at the Folk Music Center in Claremont, I try to push the envelope a bit, play something a little more challenging, a little more complex. The idea is to keep my mind busy enough with the detail that it forgets to be scared. (Well, it kind of works. )
This time, the end of December 2014, I chose a piece I had just written called The Hart. I wanted to play something that sounded Celtic. I wanted to use the guitar to imitate the drone of bag pipes and the sound of clay pipes and such.
Well, here it is. Hopefully you will find it entertaining.