Every day, I experience The Moment. I don’t always realize it at the time, and I don’t always remember it afterward. But it’s there.
One memorable moment came at midday today, when the mixture of breeze-blown drizzle and oversized snowflakes turned to sleet. A rush of bouncing sleet pellets kicked up an audible ruckus on the walkway and clattered against the windows. I stopped what I was doing to admire the pelting, bounding ice drops out there—their the individual trajectories, their collective urgency, their crazy resemblance to popping corn. I watched the traffic on Route 1 slow, watched the sleet in the headlights. I also thought how so many of my neighbors would describe the sleet as “hail.” I grew up in Texas, where the smallest gauge of hail is “pea-sized”—a larger size than this. I recalled the old ’63 Dodge 800 I used to drive, formerly my grandparents’ car, whose heavy-gauge steel body was peppered with deep dents, result of a true Amarillo hailstorm. The hail from that storm had to be baseball-sized, at least.
The hail—I mean sleet—soon vanished. Abruptly. And I resumed my desk work.
Worked clear through until closing time, when I bundled up for a chilly, drippy Beech Hill hike with dog. As we have been lately, Jack and were alone on the hill. Alone except for crows. And then, near the little brook, some tiny, flitting, peeping birds—three or four of them, all calling to each other faintly, keeping tabs—high in the bare branches of a grove of young hardwoods. We stopped to admire what I quickly recognized as golden-crowned kinglets. Would’ve loved to get a photo, but the light was too low. The kinglets moved on in one direction, and we moved on in another.
I thought about how, at this time last year, I was watching for fox sparrows. A good-sized flock of them stopped off in these woods on their way north. They stayed for a couple-three weeks. Haven’t seen one yet this year.
About half-way up, I noticed that a familiar highbush blueberry was blooming and thought about how, in a few weeks, hummingbirds will be drinking from their bell-shaped flowers.
We reached the summit to the chattering of chickadees. No phoebe in the rain and blow. No sparrow. A foggy view of the hills; a hazy view of the bay. We turned right around and headed back down into the trees. Around a curve or two, I heard more faint peeping and we stopped. Brown creepers, I could tell from their voices. It took about a half-minute for me to spot one circling up a tree trunk. Too dark for photos, but a nice moment: just a man, a dog, and a couple creepers.
No turkeys today that we could find. No mallards at the “vernal pool.” But coming back across the little brook, I heard the kinglets again. The same little collection of ’em, I imagine. They hadn’t moved far.
We stopped on the boardwalk and I watched the kinglets. Two of them, quite near. Kinglets move and flit and flit and move—they hardly ever sit still. The tiny birds were pecking about in the buds of young maples. They flitted just above me, flitted back and forth above the trail, little dark silhouettes against the gray sky. I tried for photos, but photos weren’t really the point. The kinglets were the point. Jack stood patiently, watching me; I stood transfixed, watching kinglets, lost in the moment.
Arriving back at the parking lot I was astonished to hear a loud, yodeling scream from somewhere in the mist across the road. A hawk clearly. An osprey. An osprey? Really? So early? But I know the voice of an osprey. This one was flying low, at treetop level. It had some kind of problem, a need to communicate. It was screaming and crying. Somewhere I also heard crows. The voice of the osprey faded away to the north. A memorable moment, for sure.
But not The Moment. I lost myself today in the company of golden-crowned kinglets.
Beech Hill List
Beginning at 5:15 p.m., I hiked the wooded trails.
1. American crow (voice)
2. Golden-crowned kinglet
3. Black-capped chickadee (voice)
4. Brown creeper
5. Herring gull (voice)
6. Osprey (voice)*
7. Northern cardinal
8. Tufted titmouse
9. House finch
10. American goldfinch
11. American robin