I was walking to work, noting with particular pleasure the flowers' change of colors: their efforts were numerous and charming. The thick, Crayola hues had now become varied and delicate: translucent pearl glowing with pink, cool magenta sighing into harvest yellow. High summer is a time for subtleties; it carries a hint of what is to come in the autumn, the year's season of change.
The sidewalks are very bad where I live; they resemble granite plates shifting within the restless, seismic earth. So it behooves me to watch my feet carefully. This particular morning, I was staring down a particularly ugly patch of ravaged sidewalk, when I saw a lovely thing lying there. Singular and unexpected, it was a calling card from its owner, a debonair visitor.
I believe it was a hawk's feather. Now goodness knows, there is food aplenty here for an enterprising raptor: dogs, cats, birds, rats – filthy diplomats of the big city – but I have never seen one. But I know that they are fine creatures, with rows of feathers muscling through the air currents, noble profiles, eyes that glitter with an opal's fire, senses that read the patterns of the sky like a book and beaks that sweep into a curve that ends in death.
It might have been circling the neighborhood, taking stock of the potential groceries; it might have perched on a telephone pole, an enviable silhouette, an errant breeze lifting a feather or two. Maybe that's how I got my souvenir.
Possibly it was unimpressed with what it saw, and returned to the dry hills inland. It might have flown north, where the fires had turned the forests black and raw, waiting for the small animals to burst into the open, out of their burning homes. Nature is opportunistic and cruel.
I continued walking, waiting for someone to stop me and remark what a handsome feather I was holding. But such whimsical observations were not forthcoming. Sometimes I felt the wind brush through the patterned barbs and wondered if perhaps my arm felt a little lighter? I fancied that it wasn't necessary to swing my arm back and forth – that it was instead resting on a cushion of air. If I looked down again, I wondered, would it just be upon city-ignored sidewalks or upon the tops of houses?
I hope the hawk doesn't regret leaving this feather. Its calling card is all I have from a visitor I wish I'd seen. I never saw it, a distant black cross blessing the innocuous summer horizon; I never heard the cry that made a pledge of pursuit and pain. I never watched the small, perfect structure, its base coated with down, its body strong yet at the same time a byword for weightlessness, swivel through the still air to land on the sidewalk that marked my route to work.
So I will promise to look into the sky, in order to keep our rendezvous – till we meet again.