Our amazing snow will soon be a memory. The dripping sound of melting lasted all night and all day. Early this morning it was joined by a chorus of screeching grackles in the soapberry tree across the alley. Grackles can make a particularly annoying call that sounds like the winding of an old-fashioned alarm clock. Okay, I'm up!
We stood squinting and blocking traffic in the parking lot of Corner Bakery after lunch, just three fifty-something ladies slowly realizing snow glare had been replaced by sunshine. It was vaguely familiar!
The condo hawk had the same experience. It was getting back to its job sitting on the highest tree above the creek. It didn't seem to be surveying all that it rules. I think it was just squinting into the sun, glad to warm its breast feathers.
The hawk is a regular this month. I'm practicing my binocular skills on it. My neighbors must think I've gone crackerdog and flopbot, standing out in the driveway trying to focus. Where did the hawk go during our snowstorm?
My camera can't capture what I observed with binoculars. The hawk's breast feathers look so soft, colored golden brown and white, sometimes ruffled by the wind. The hawk uses its beak to smooth some feathers. Its brown head seems flat-topped, due to my viewpoint. I watch the head swivel back and forth, and know the hawk sees me far better than I see it. Once it opens its wings and spreads its tail. Both look banded with gray and black. The moment is gone. My arms are shaky.
I go back to the curb, lean against the Skylark for support, and refocus the binoculars. The hawk's yellow legs don't have feathery knee socks or knickers. To my astonishment, the hawk raises its leg and stands on one foot for some very long seconds. The move looks just like that of a woman who has worn uncomfortable but stylish yellow shoes for too many hours.
Who will blink first? The hawk decides to fly. It swoops low before high, then far off into the neighborhood. Not much for making an identification, except it keeps its tail closed, not fan-spread like a red-tail.
Enough basking, facing the sun, for the condo hawk. What is basking? Exposing oneself pleasantly to warmth... from the Norwegian baska, according to my old American Heritage Dictionary. The Online Etymology Dictionary adds this Shakespearean hint:
Modern meaning "soak up a flood of warmth" is apparently due to Shakespeare's use of the word in reference to sunshine in "As You Like It" (1600).
When we lived in Edmond, Oklahoma in the late Eighties, our Ripple Creek neighborhood had a street named "Basking Ridge Trail". Were the residents supposed to go out into the street in their Norwegian buff to bask and survey all they ruled?
If you bask, wear sunscreen.
If you squint, get out of the road.
If you binoc, keep practicing.