Archive for the 'feathers' Category

Owls and hawks

September 1, 2014

I saw some feathers yesterday, on the ball field I cross on my way to the Arlington Reservoir from the bike path.  I saw a few fluffy ones on my way in to the Res, and they had some faint horizontal striping.  On the way back, I saw a stiffer feather, white with dark brown definite stripes.

I am not much of a birder.  I like what I like, I enjoy what I like, I get excited over something that strikes me as wonderful, but I don’t know that much.

I suspect the feathers I saw were from an owl, but I don’t know.

It got me thinking about hawks and owls and their real and perceived differences.  Why are owls associated with wisdom and hawks with predation?  Owls kills small animals, too.  Maybe owls really are smart(er), the way poodles are smart(er) compared to most other dogs.

But that musing stood me in good stead when I read a news comment last night about the political hawks clamoring for (U.S. involvement in) war (in Iraq and Syria).   I expressed the wish that they develop the wisdom attributed to owls.  I added “and to Athena” since the comment (by Rima Regas) I was responding to had mentioned the Hydra of Greek mythology.

Nothing like a leitmotif to give a little coherence to a slow holiday weekend.


Feathers in wings

October 29, 2013

The line in the Leslie Smith song “Words of a Kind” is actually about “tattered wings,” not directly about tattered feathers.  It goes, “Our wings are older now and tattered.”  Just wanted to correct what I wrote in my last post.

I thought to do that earlier, but I forgot about it.  Until I was walking home again through the woods this afternoon.

I was studying the area where there are steps down to the ball field for the middle school.  Used to be a large tree there, then it fell, then it was cut into pieces and they lay across from where it had stood.  Now it’s all gone and the area is much more open.  I was also looking at the stonework near those stairs and wondering, yet again, if the stones ever were the foundation for something beyond what can be seen now — they look like what you see in an archaeological dig, foundations to a structure long gone.

Anyway, I was contemplating all this and saw a motion in the sky at the edge of my field of vision, which I assumed would turn out to be an airplane, but no, it was a hawk.  It was gliding in circles, they looked as if they were overlapping, like you’d make with a spirograph.  Maybe that’s how hawks scan sectors for prey.  Don’t know, but it struck me that the feathers are much better on a live bird sailing through the sky than scattered on the ground.

I guess I also liked the idea of the feathers sailing up high because this was Willy’s birthday, and there’s that section at the end of “Reunion Hill,” by Richard Shindell, about the hawk “spiral[ing] higher still / As if from such an altitude / He might just keep our love in view.”

I’m sure there’s a story out there somewhere about how the husband sails off as the hawk himself, up to the higher reaches, after he dies.  That’s actually how I hear the Richard Shindell song, but I suspect that’s my overlay.

Pristine feathers, tattered feathers

October 29, 2013

Yesterday I ended my walk by going through the small patch of woods behind the middle school and near my house.

I had run into a woman I know, while I was walking.  She was out on her regular route, I was improvising mine.  We had an enjoyable conversation about the This Old House renovation that’s been going on in our neighborhood.  It turned out we both had the same questions about it and the same reaction to it.  We talked a little about Willy, because she knew him, and knew the kids, through seeing them out walking the dog.  I told her today (it was “tomorrow” then) would have been his birthday.

At Eastern Avenue we went our separate ways, she to go up to the Water Tower and Park Ave., me to go down to Robbins Farm and sit and look at the Boston skyline.

When I finished and set off to return home, I went down a road that would lead me to one of the entrances to the patch of woods I mentioned.  Within the woods, I went up the hill, and on my way up, I came across two feathers, the first recognizable as a hawk feather, despite its being a little the worse for wear, the second, probably one as well, given its length and width and proximity to the first, but too tattered for me to be able to really tell for sure.

I am reminded of the quite pristine hawk feathers I encountered near Willy’s grave a day before his yahrzeit this past summer.

Call it what you will, I am drawn to compare and contrast and derive an interpretation.  What I come to is that Willy achieved what he needed to in order to return those tattered feathers to their pristine state.  That’s what I perceive from the inside looking out from my perspective, it probably looks quite different to someone, or everybody, else.  So be it.

I would link to Leslie Smith’s song “Words of a Kind” if I could find it on YouTube.  (Here’s a different one of her songs instead.  “Words of a Kind” talks about our tattered feathers, albeit from a different perspective, the more usual one, I think, but I love the song.  And it’s part of where I go when I start thinking about tattered feathers.  Only I can see how we may “redeem” them and return them to their pristine state.

Ten Years

August 21, 2013

Tomorrow it will have been ten years since Willy died.  I went to the cemetery today.  I wondered if I would feel like going afterwards to the antiques store nearby we used to like to go to together.

I parked my car in the cemetery where I usually do, towards the end of the short road, where it meets a couple of other short roads and it’s easy to turn a car around.  There’s also shade there, and I backed the car along one of the roads to take advantage of that.

Then I got out and walked across towards Willy’s grave.  I spotted a small hawk feather, as I stepped onto the grass, then I saw more feathers, including two big ones, between me and the grave.

I wonder what happened to the hawk.  I saw what looked like pigeon feathers scattered at the other end of the cemetery road, near the gate, as I was leaving the cemetery.  (I got out of my car to see what they were.)  Maybe there was an interaction between the two birds, maybe there was another animal involved, preying on them both — I don’t know enough about how these things go to say.

That’s what I left with, the thought that we get bits of evidence, this and that data points, and we try to make sense of them, often by means of putting them together in a sequence and then adding setting, theme, motivation, etc.  until they tell a coherent story.  Sometimes it very much matters whether the story is accurate, for other purposes it doesn’t.

Hawk feather in NJ?

August 9, 2013

A few days before I traveled down here to visit my mother, she told me, over the phone, that she had noticed a feather on the lawn next to the driveway, as she was taking in the garbage can, I think.  She had left it there.  I suggested she pick it up and take it in.  So she did.  She said it was small, white, and with black stripes.  I wondered if it could have been from a woodpecker.

She decided to put it in a little alabaster bowl in the living room.

When I got here yesterday to visit, I saw it when I took off my glasses and put them where I usually do (I belong to the put-glasses-down-only-in-one-of-two-places-or-you-may-never-find-them-again school of thought), which is on the occasional table on which the bowl sits.

The feather is short but it is wide, much too wide for a small bird.  It reminds me much more of a short hawk feather, although the bulk of the feather is whiter than I associate with hawk feathers.  The layout and outline of the horizontal stripes remind me of hawk feathers.

There’s an old family story about my mother sort of talking out loud to herself, but also to my sister, when mysister was about two years old, about a bird it the backyard.  My mother apparently said, “Yes, I think that’s a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, what do you think, Phyllis?”  And my sister apparently precociously remarked, “I think it’s a penguin.”  It was at that point that my startled mother realized she was in effect trying to have an adult conversation with a toddler.

I’ll do a less winsome version of that here:  I think it’s a hawk feather.

Feather report

March 29, 2013

I think it’s from the tail of a Wild Turkey.  I found it in the street earlier today while I was out walking.  It’s about 16 inches long, black with a reddish brown horizontal stripe pattern and a lighter reddish brown tip.  It’s also not in great condition — the shaft is splitting and frayed.  It looks as if maybe it spent a bunch of time under a snow bank at the curb where I found it.  But it’s BIG, kind of magnificent despite the wear and tear.  I think the Wild Turkey is our state game bird here in MA, so maybe it pulls at my feelings of respect on that account, too.

Hawk on a wire

September 13, 2012

It was indeed a (big) bird on a wire.

I had taken a walk up the hill and over and around it on one of those streets that wander relative to others on more of a grid.  I wound up at St. Camillus Church near Rte 2 — I like the part of the grounds at the break in the fence near Florence Ave.  I walked up through the brief woodsy area, sat on one of the rocks, and then took the path that ends in the grass.  Then I crossed the grass, passed the kneeling bench for prayer, and walked between the buildings onto Dow to turn back towards where I live.  I took Valentine Rd. at the fork and thought about a friend of my older son’s who had lived on that street.

I saw I was going to pass a person walking his dog coming from the other direction, and the dog looked old and sweet.  It was a Collie.  I think her name was Baby and she was very sociable in a subdued sort of way.  She seemed kind of small, but her owner said it was because her hair had been cut in order to make it easier to check for ticks.

We were talking about old dog care, and then suddenly a hawk landed across the street on a telephone or electrical wire, behind him and facing me.  It was magnificent.

I pointed the hawk out to the person I was chatting with, because I would’ve felt bad not to share such a sight with someone right there but whose back was to it, and the bird flew off just after he turned around and saw it.

It was really big, pretty close, and quite beautiful with its creamy white and reddish brown stripping.  Its full and curved body shape was also striking from up so close.

It didn’t fly very far when it left, but it became hidden by the still leafy trees.

Considering all the difficult family stuff I was dealing with today, seeing a favorite bird of mine up close and in a surprising way seemed like a special treat, and I appreciated it.  (My interlocutor and I agreed we don’t enjoy watching them feeding on their prey, but they are impressive creatures.)

Yesterday I found a hawk feather on my way home from transacting some business in the center of town, and I enjoyed that kind of find as usual, but maybe more, after all that paperwork.  It had two maple polynoses attached to it near its base.

I’m not sure how to connect these two experiences, or if I should.  I was thinking later as I continued walking home after today’s that the lone feather yesterday was like a symbol of a gnostic insight, something allowed to us by the universe for our understanding but not something we actively take or pluck for ourselves.  To see its source would be quite another thing.


August 21, 2012

It felt like a present.   Instead of taking the walk I had planned to take, I walked around the corner and up the steep hill I used to push Jordan’s stroller on the way to pick up Jonas from elementary school, and I followed the same route we used to take the rest of the way.

There’s a playground with a ball field on the same block, before one arrives at the (rebuilt) school itself, and on the grass near the sidewalk near the slide was a large striped feather — much white with brown horizontal stripes.  I picked it up and turned it over — on that other side the white sections looked smudged with brown.

I’m supposing it’s a hawk feather.  I like it.  I also liked finding it today, on what would have been my wedding anniversary.   I don’t much care who it’s from, I’m enjoying it without knowing exactly how to attribute its appearance in my life on this day on this walk.  It feels like a present.

Blue Jay feather symmetry

July 2, 2012

I took a walk yesterday evening, up the hill and over and around.  Along Park Ave., I found a Blue Jay feather.  In itself, that’s not too unusual this time of year, but it was a type of feather I’m not sure I’ve ever picked up before:  the spine is off-center, the ribs on the narrow side are blue, on the wider side mostly black but with a white patch at the bottom.

This morning, I went early to the Post Office to mail off this weekend’s raft of paperwork, and when I returned, at the foot of my steps on the side walk was a similar feather, but the mirror image: same coloration and asymmetry but with the narrow side on the right instead of the left and wider side on the left instead of the right.

It struck me that a spiritual partner could reflect the asymmetry of the other partner in reverse, and that that unorthodox arrangement could actually produce an orthodox equilibrium.


June 12, 2012

Last evening I found a crow feather on the sidewalk as I walked home.  It’s about eight and a half inches long and one and three-quarters inches wide.  I was struck by how nice and clean its bald end is.

Today I went walking around the reservoir.  The water level is pretty high and there are not many water fowl around.  Something green is blooming on much of the water’s surface.

There are still a couple of points where, despite the high water level and the leafy undergrowth, a person can still make their way down to the water.  I stood above one such place and felt almost a push to go down to the water’s edge.  Halfway down I saw what looked to be a feather floating right at the shore.  I finished my way down carefully, despite this sense of being pushed (no, I did not want to tumble in), picked the feather up out of the water, and wow, it’s really long —  it’s kind of narrow, but it is truly long:  over fourteen and three-quarters inches.  It, too, has a nice, clean bald quill at the end — again, very long (almost four inches) and large in diameter (a quarter inch) and hollow and tough.

I’m wondering whether it is also from a crow or whether it is from some water bird.  I don’t know very much about feathers — I just like them.  The back of it has almost a shiny coating for about half its width closest to the shaft — I’m wondering if that’s a clue.  There are cormorants at the res sometimes, but I haven’t seen one for a while, and of course, geese, but this feather doesn’t remind me of goose feathers.  There are crows at the res often.

When I sit back and think about my reaction to this feather, it’s really less about what kind of bird it came from (although I am clearly curious about that), and more about, “Wow, it’s from a big bird!  I’d like to see the rest of the thing and be able to visualize where this feather fits in.”  Maybe that’s what I should think about, the mystery of seeing only part of a whole and how to make peace with that.