Thursday, September 10, 2009

TWILIGHT GIFT

"…a sort of reflection-of-a-reflection shot."
When twilight comes and light begins to fade, the world along the riverbank seems to pause and grows still, almost silent, as if holding its breath in anticipation. A brief interlude not unlike that experienced in a theater after the orchestra has finished tuning, the house lights have been dimmed, and you sit in the great dark room amid the muted shifting and stirring of the surrounding audience…waiting for the curtain to be raised.

For me, this is a magical period, a time when it no longer seems prudent to believe only in those things which can be quantified and explained. Textbooks and peer-reviewed papers can never deal adequately with twilight.

At twilight, land and water and sky are charged with ancient mystery. Reality shifts. Secrets lurk in the darkening shadows. Things best accommodated by old knowledge—tales told round a fire by gray-bearded elders, stories passed via careful whispers in pine-fragrant glens.

Anything is possible…

A few nights ago I was sitting on the bench overlooking the river. The sunset had not been spectacular, merely a dwindling of the light in the west. Moments earlier, I had managed a photo of the vanquished sun’s final orange gleam as the fiery light bounced off the high crown of a big, white-barked sycamore upstream to be mirrored in the pool below. A sort of reflection-of-a-reflection shot.

Now the sky was the color of old pewter, barely distinguishable above the island’s treeline. The swallows were long gone and the earliest-feeding bats were already fluttering about. That’s when twilight favored me with a rare gift and I saw the nighthawks.

Migrating nighthawks are one of the quintessential last-of-summer sights in Ohio as they head for winter quarters in South America. Over-flights of birds typically begin passing through anywhere from the last week in August to the first few days of September. Late afternoon and twilight is their preferred travel time—or at least the time I generally spot them sailing along overhead.

The flight I observed the other evening was by far the largest I’ve ever witnessed. First there was a single nighthawk…then two. Then a handful, perhaps a dozen scattered loosely, then five or six, ten, four, a single…fifteen! Group after group they came, an unhurried, steady progression that might have revealed two or three dozen birds total at any one time.

A hundred nighthawks crossed overhead. Then two hundred. And still the birds kept appearing from the northwest, heading southeast. Twos, threes, a half-dozen. I was now straining to see them in the gathering darkness, missing many, losing track of others before I could make out their count.

How many were there? I honestly don’t know—but certainly several hundred. A thousand or more was equally possible.

Unlike a traveling skein of geese, the nighthawks were totally silent. And yet, long after it became too dark to see anything, I believe those migrating nighthawks were still passing above me—I seemed to feel their moving presence up there in the ebony sky.

Wishful thinking? Fantasy? Perhaps.

Or just maybe time spent savoring September’s twilight had reawakened some atavistic sense. All I know is that after a while I felt—no, I knew—the sky was empty…that my once-in-a-lifetime flight of nighthawks had gone.

25 comments:

TheChicGeek said...

Oh, what a beautiful and romantic description. You are fortunate to be able to experience such beauty.
Thank you for this. It was so lovely.

Have a Wonderful Evening!

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

Such love and appreciation go into every painting you create. The magic brush you wield fills the canvas of my mind . . . and I leave renewed, ready to face another moment.

And you never fail to paint the canvas - every time - another offering - I would love to be able to obtain a book of your portraits.

Wanda said...

This was a beautiful post with a beautiful joyful sadness too...that's what it made me feel...I will want to read it again...just like a good book!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

ChicGeek…

I'm pleased you liked this piece. It was a wonderful sight.

Thank you…

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bonnie…

Oh, my! What can I say? Thank you, certainly…and I'm glad you found such pleasure and renewal in this little piece.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Wanda…

Life is always tinged with sweet poignancy, don't you think? That's what makes it both precious and wonderful.

Hildred and Charles said...

Scribe, I was thrilled to read your post on the migrating nighthawk. A few days ago I posted memories of the nighthawks that made certain evenings on the farm a time of magic. As the layers of summer heat encouraged the shimmer of insects lower and lower great flocks of nighthawks would descend on them with a tremendous whooshing of wings and their cries of Peent, Peent. My son was just remarking today that a boy on a bicycle took his life in his hands when the nighthawks were feeding if he was riding down the road that cut the benchland orchards.

There seems to be a decline in their numbers, and we don't see the same wonderful flocks here in the Similkameen anymore. I understand there are people who follow and record the migrations of the nighthawk, and you were truly privileged to have that wonderful experience. I do envy you, - the nighthawk evokes many nostalgic memories in my heart.

Bernie said...

Griz, I feel your love for this beautiful setting and all the beauty of God's creations that have found their way to your amazing river.....love this Grizz as the visualization has stirred my heart......:-) Hugs

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Hildred & Charles…

Nighthawks are wonderful birds. I love to watch them on a summer evening swooping over an old meadow as they chase insects…and to hear their "roar" as they pull up from a steep dive. My grandfather and a lot of the old people called them "bull bats."

I still see about the same number of nighthawks around during a summer hereabouts as I ever did—but it may be I'm not really paying attention. I also read many of the online sites you mention which discuss their decline and the possible reasons. (I also read your nice piece on nighthawks a moment ago and enjoyed it very much—plus your photos. It was just too dark for any sort of photo when the great flight I witnessed came over. But I do know I was lucky to have seen such a sight, and I'm grateful.

Thank you for your nice comment.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bernie…

While it's true I live in a place where wildlife abounds, I also know it's amazing what can been seen from any location if you watch carefully. Growing up, just in and around the small yard of my parents' home, there were all sorts birds and bugs, interesting plants, small creatures, and wonderful little natural vignettes to witness almost daily. Luckily, both Mom and Dad paid attention—and taught me to do the same. And I'm so very thankful they did, because it has so enriched my life and days.

Thank you…

Jayne said...

What a magical evening that must have been...

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jayne…

Magical, indeed!

I'd read and heard about such numbers of migrating birds, but never actually seen them. A truly special sight.

Gail said...

HI GRIZZ -

First, the photo is amazing. And your words defining how it came to be? Spectacular.

And the journey of the nighthawks was so much mire inspiring because of your being there to tell about it - I saw, and felt, and heard, and fantasized right along with you and I so enjoyed it. So thanks Grizz for sharing your amazing talent of bringing your world at the river bank along with your heart and spirit all blended like a perfect recipe, to me. :-)
Delicious.

Love you
Gail;
peace.....

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

It was an amazing, magical experience seeing that huge flight of migrating nighthawks. Too, twilight is always so mysterious and filled with possibilities…

I'm glad you enjoyed the photo. Those little white specks are bubbles from tiny insects—midges and the like—and the rings are feeding fish, bluegills or minnows.

I'm also pleased I could share with you this twilight on the riverbank.

Carolyn H said...

Ah, nighthawks. They are wonderful. Great post, Griz.

Carolyn H.

Gail said...

Hi Grizz -
I am thrilled too. :-)

I commented over at my place to both of your comments I love that you came by to see me. I mentioned over at my place that I would love to know the rest of your answers to the 'discovery walk' if you don't mind sharing them.
Thanks.

Love Gail
peace......

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Carolyn…

I've always enjoyed nighthawks a lot—but I've never witnessed suck an overflight.

PS: wouldn't mind a few of your wild turkeys cluttering up the riverbank, though.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

Hey, I really do try and read your posts regularly. (Well, irregularly, maybe, but I read them all.)

Gail said...

Hi Grizz -
I love that you posted your answers to the 'discovery walk' over at my place. And your answers were SO accurate. :-) As much as I am privileged to know of you I thought your answers were a nice fit, box turtle and all!! :-)

Love Gail
peace.....

Anna said...

I am sure it was a 'magical period'. Wow so many nighthawks. All we have here now are Canada Goose flying south, lol. The picture is surreal. Anna :)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Anna…

Yes, true twilight magic—and more nighthawks than I've ever seen. A really special evening.

I'm pleased you also liked the picture. I love these sorts of shots…also sort of magical, don't you think?

KGMom said...

Somehow I missed this post...truth is I know how; I've been immersed in Facebook. Sorry--true confession.
Anyway, twilight is my favorite time of day, and autumn is my favorite season. Perhaps you can see I savor endings. The sweetness, aching sweetness. And then I spend hours in reverie recalling, wondering...
Anyway--I was loving your post, and then you got to the migration of night hawks. And I am enchanted, absolutely. No words to describe my reaction--except perhaps a touch of jealousy.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

KGMom…

I like endings…and transitions—when they're both ending or beginning. Spring is my favorite season (used to be fall) and now I'd be hard pressed to choose between winter and autumn for the number two spot.

Enchanting is exactly the word and the feeling for that twilight with nighthawks. Pure natural magic.

Facebook?! Really!?

KGMom said...

On Facebook--yes. I have taken up game playing. Word games--e.g. Scrabble with my brother. Other word games.
And farming--ala Farmville.
Dear me, such a time waster.
Don't be too disappointed in me.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

KGMom…

Oh, for shame! And you an educated woman with a new vehicle, too. I am aghast!

Now………what's this Farmville deal?