Before Coffee: The Season of the Dark Birds

December 5, 2016 § Leave a comment

I’ve always had an affinity for the hawk. I’m fond of all the raptors—falcons, eagles, etc.—but hawks have always been a particular fascination.

I work in a big glass box, and hawks live nearby, so I see them perched on the tops of the parking lot lights and some dead trees nearby. Several times, I’ve see one particular hawk (at least, I assume it’s the same one) harried by two tiny birds who seem to think they own the airspace through which the hawk is flying.

The hawk could easily take out both birds. I’ve seen it happen, once, standing at my kitchen sink and something flashed by the window, and I thought someone had run past. I looked out into the back yard, and there it was, some small bird in its talons being torn apart by its fierce, curved beak. Taking its time, an hour spent completely disassembling its breakfast; I went out once it finally flew off, and there was nothing but a few bloody feathers.

So I know what the hawk outside my office window is capable of. Yet it flies on, serene, ignoring the little birds’ attack runs and the occasional feathers they tear off it. (I found one of those feathers—a large one—next to my car one day, and keep it in the dash.)

But now it’s the season of the little, dark birds. They’re massing in undulating murmurations, moving both at random and in tandem through the air, filling power lines and empty fields and trees whenever they come to rest.

The other day, I saw the hawk flying through that same airspace and suddenly an entire flock of dark birds poured out to attack from their hiding place in the trees. It worried me, seeing this mighty raptor swarmed by such an overwhelming number; I thought perhaps the predator might become the prey, and the prey, the predator.

Yet the hawk flew peacefully on, as always, and seemed to take no notice of the dark birds. It finally crossed some invisible border, and the swarm turned and flew back to their trees to hide and rest and wait for the next intruder or the signal to continue the migration south.

In a week or two, the hawk will have the sky to itself until the dark birds return in the spring. It will be the hawk’s season and it knows this, and is patient. Focused.

The little dark birds may chase and screech and pick out a few feathers, but in the end, the hawk remains.

P.S. As my friend Bill pointed out, the gang attack on the hawk is an example of mobbing.

Photo credit:  Maresa Smith, via Death to Stock Photos.


A Cabin in the Hills

November 30, 2016 § Leave a comment

Today started gray, with a high fog hiding the tops of the cell towers. It’s clearing now, the clouds turning white and a pale blue sky peeking through the breaks between them. The temperature is unseasonably warm again; the thermometer has been manic for weeks.

(As I was writing this, Warren Ellis posted a Morning, Computer entry in which he said, “From my balcony, the clouds had reached down to wrap the spires of New York in their mist.” As always, he said it better than me.)

Yeats sits on my shoulder and whispers The Second Coming in my ear. I’ve been struggling to find something to say here that isn’t angry ranting or terrified dismay over the coming four years, and finding I have nothing beyond those two states—anger and fear. There’s enough of that already in the air, however, and I have nothing of substance to add that others haven’t already said better.

So, an update of sorts. « Read the rest of this entry »

Ink, Part 2

November 10, 2016 § Leave a comment

Last night, my wife and friends gathered at the Overlook in an attempt to drown their post-election trauma in fine bourbon and beer. And chase out some popped-collar dudebro who thought he was so fucking cool because he cast his vote for “Batman” as president.

I was not there.

I was next door, in point of fact. Reclined on a converted massage table, doped up on endogenous morphine while a heavily tattooed man repeatedly shoved needles into my flesh. « Read the rest of this entry »

My One and Only Political Post about the Election

November 8, 2016 § Leave a comment

It’s Election Day here in the US. There’s a chill in the air, as if the world itself is shivering in anxious anticipation of the outcome. I’m starting to believe autumn is finally here to stay.

I went to my first political rally last night. I made a Facebook post about it and was going to leave it at that, because there’s been enough blather about this election and the stakes and who is the best candidate and who is a racist, sexist, allegedly criminal and possibly dead broke reality show star with no government experience.

Most people made set their minds on a candidate months ago, and the way I look at it, nothing I or anyone else can say is going to change someone’s choice. « Read the rest of this entry »


November 3, 2016 § 2 Comments

UPDATE: Apparently, they only hydrated Dad and did a CT scan to map out the best path to take when they implant the microspheres. The scan involved contrast dye, though, so the kidneys are still an issue. They will hydrate him for eight hours to combat the effect of the dye on his kidneys.

My father is undergoing a procedure today in preparation for a cancer treatment that will happen sometime next week, I think. (There’s some uncertainty about that, because all my information comes through my parents, and they both get confused by all the medical jargon.)

The treatment is called TheraSphere (or, generically, radioembolization), and it’s a low-risk procedure for most people. Dad, however, is 90, and at that age, his kidney function is about half of what someone under 40 has.

(Fun Fact: On average, we lose 10% of our kidney function every ten years after age 40.)

The procedure today is to map out the arteries they need to “seed” with the glass microspheres. As such, it involves giving Dad contrast, which is very hard on the kidneys. So this low-risk procedure is actually high-risk. « Read the rest of this entry »

Before Coffee: Good Morning

November 2, 2016 § Leave a comment

For the past two mornings, I’ve been up and out the door early enough to watch the sunrise as I drove to the office. Yesterday, clouds dominated the sky, pink and orange and gray. About a mile from the end of my short journey, the sun blazed through a split in a particular dense patch of cloud, like a dazzling russet eye peering through a crack in the firmament.

Today, lavender and peach puffs covered the sky, leaving it clear at the horizon. I watched the sun through the trees, fully risen but still low, following me as I drove. Something Mozart wrote played on the radio; I didn’t catch the title. The air kept just enough of the night’s chill to prevent me from having the car’s windows or top down, but that bright disk of fire was already warming it.

The temperature topped out at 82 F yesterday, a new record for this time of year. Today, it’s supposed to hit 80. Summer doesn’t seem to want to say goodbye, and I’m perfectly fine with that.

There’s still a lot of shit sliding southward. But there’s also more beauty and friendship and love surrounding me than I feel I deserve, and I’m enormously grateful for it.

Every sunrise is a new beginning.

This is what the sky in my corner of the world looked like this morning. (Photo credit: US National Weather Service—Wilmington, Ohio) And ha ha, I wrote this early and went to grab that link, and fell down a Facebook rabbit hole. So it’s well after coffee now, but whatever. Shut up, I’m old and easily distracted.



October 29, 2016 § Leave a comment

Choices are on my mind his morning, as I sip my coffee and feel the synapses begin to fire. It’s chilly in the house, but summer is staging another strike. I just ducked outside to look at a passing airplane, and it’s wonderfully warm; the perfect day for riding rollercoasters, which I will be doing with my wife and friends today, before we costume and go to a Halloween/birthday party tonight.

But choices. We make choices in almost every moment, and each choice alters the course of our life in some way.

Some choices are so small we don’t even notice we made them, yet they have a butterfly effect nonetheless: turn left instead of right, and avoid an accident; choose one word over another and cause a misunderstanding that damages a relationship.

Others are larger, more gut-wrenching decisions: to leave a job, or keep a difficult secret, or say goodbye to a beloved pet, or end a friendship that you realize is no longer a friendship.

One right choice can push your life in an amazing new direction; one wrong choice—no matter how small—can bring it all crashing down. Choose well. « Read the rest of this entry »