Wednesday, January 03, 2007

hawk and crows

This morning I walked around our upper field with a neighbor who does grading and bulldozer work for a living. We were looking at the site where I wanted to put up the new greenhouse. A new greenhouse to replace the one that was destroyed in the fire.

Did I mention we had a fire? One with exploding propane tanks, flames shooting 100 feet in the air, smoke so thick and so black that it was seen over ten miles away. You know, that sort of fire. A hot ugly fire.

It was the Tuesday before Christmas and since then I’ve been trying to think of a way to tell a fire story as a happy holiday tale, but even though I've spent a lot of time thinking about it. I just can't do it.

Fires aren't fun and they aren't nice, so instead of dwelling on it, let me tell you a story about the hawk I saw this morning. A huge white hawk and its nemesis, an extended family of determined crows.

So, that leaves Philip and me walking around the upper field this morning looking at the place where I had staked out my proposed greenhouse site.

When Wenonah and I measured the spot off the day before, taking tomato stakes and twine to mark out the boundary it had seemed like a good site. The new greenhouse needs to be as large as the old one which was 30 feet wide and 96 feet long. So the place we found looked good. It was land too steep to use for anything else. To step to grow vegetables on. But still, a site close to electricity, Close to water. No trees to block out the sunlight. In fact it even had good sunlight.

A location that was far enough removed that it wouldn’t be an eye sore (a major concern of Wenonah's) but still, close enough to the house that I could make a quick midnight run from the house to the greenhouse in case of a crisis.

Philip, though, was shaking his head. I could tell he didn’t see it the same way I had.

“What are you going to do when it rains?” he asked. “You get a good thunderstorm and its going to come down off that hillside and wash you away.”

Not wanting to letting him know I hadn’t considered what a rain storm would do, I just nodded and replied:

“Maybe I could ditch it on the uphill side or put in some drain tile.”

He wasn’t mollified.

“And there’s likely to be a good amount of rock. What do you want me to do with all the rocks I dig up?” and to accent his point he reached down and picked up a fist sized rock, looked at it for a moment and then tossed it down the hill.

I told him he was no doubt right there too. “I guess, though, that we’ll just have to do the best we can, right?”

Anyway, there we were, standing on the side of the mountain looking at the fields and thinking about the lay of the land. Trying to get a sense for it. A feel for what would be best, if we could organize the mountain side. The fields, the buildings, forest, fruit trees, beehives. If we could put it all in an order that had a sense of harmony and rightness what would it look like.

We were standing there sort of quietly meditating on the land when out of no where, up above us was a racket.


And a hawk.

Large, but white. Philip looked up and said, “Red tail, huh?”

And me, thinking that I was the educated one. The one with degrees and books. The one that reads and so naturally should know those things. That I should know more about birds than Philip, I spoke out and gave my opinion as though it was worth more than his “I don’t think so. Red tails aren’t white like that.”

And I went on to tell a story about a rare bird that had appeared half a dozen years ago. A large white bird that had swooped down one winter and plucked a chicken out of a field and hauled it off to a tree where it methodically plucked and made a meal of my chicken.

(And, of course, when I got home, and looked through my bird book, I realized I had been wrong. Of course Philip knew exactly what he was talking about. He knew what type of hawk that was. He just let me go on talking without correcting me. In both of my bird books there were clear pictures of that hawk, the one overhead. A red tail flying high overhead, often looks all white. A sort of rough white coloring. Especially if they are young).

“And after all,” I finished my story. “I don’t see any red on that one.”

Phil continued to look up at the birds. “See how those crows,” he added. “Will chase it clear out of the country.”

And they were. Behind the hawk. In fact all around the hawk, flanking it, behind it, even up above it, was a family of crows. Aunts, Uncles. Brothers, Sisters.

They were busy pestering the hawk. Chasing it right across the sky.

We stood there and watched as the hawk, chased by the family of crows, it looked to be the same dozen crows that spent their morning picking at the vegetables growing in my fields, chased the hawk right overhead and then up along the side of the mountain until finally they crossed over Highpoint’s peak and disappeared over to the other side.

We stood there a moment longer looking at where the birds, the hawk and the family of crows, had been before finally Philip turned to me.

“Well, I guess I can try it. I’ll bring my dozer up here tomorrow morning and see what I can do. And if I can’t do it, if there are too many rock then you think of a back up location. OK?”

And that’s where we left it. A new location for a new greenhouse.

And the old one? I didn’t know that metal could melt like that. But it did.


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