March 02, 2006

Bag and Bird

A white plastic bag stuck in a tree, grabbed by the witch-fingers of a bare black oak on the grounds of the state hospital, which I sometimes pass on my walk. I stop and think, “Who the hell – what crazy idiot let a plastic bag loose so it went into a tree.” Then there’s something else unmoving in the corner of my eye: twenty feet above the bag there’s a perching falcon, full-breasted and small-headed, with a tan body and barred wings of white and dark gray. Big, well-fed, flawless, a type specimen. Motionless, ever-patient , idol-cold, with hypnotic little killer eyes. I wouldn’t have seen it if not for the plastic bag.

I walk for an hour, but I’m thinking of that falcon. I want to see it again, I want it to last out this journey down human streets with their parking lots and garbage cans and signs, I want it to be waiting for me. When I reach the hospital fence again, I’m speeding up, straining forward in case I can see it a few seconds sooner. No, I tell myself – stop thinking magically, it’s not going to stay here just for you…

I have trouble finding the right tree at first, there are several of them in a row. But then I find the white bag. It guides my eyes upward to the same place twenty feet above, and yes, there’s the same falcon — no, there are two falcons now, the one and its mate, both equally splendid, perched motionless, ever-patient, idol-cold, waiting for me — no, not for me.