Monday, October 26, 2009

Nevermore, Or Not.

I am surprised that I didn't have symbolism on my mind. A couple of nights previous Mars and I had attended an evening with an Edgar Allan Poe recreator at our local library. Along with telling tales of the author's life, the actor recited "The Telltale Heart" and "The Raven".
"What does the raven symbolize?" asked one of the many high school students in attendance.

Poe dissembled but says, "Birds are usually used to represent prophetic knowledge, bloodshed, and skill."

So perhaps I should have been more disquieted by the flesh-gorging hawk in the left rough along the first fairway on the North Golf Course at Goodwin Park. After all, had Julius Caesar paid more attention to the portent of "the bird of night [that] did sit even at noon-day upon the market-place, hooting and shrieking" he might still be alive today. Well probably not actually.

But birds, being birds, do not think of themselves as meaningfully metaphorical. It was, after all, just doing what predators do -- predating. Most likely it was hungry and just needed a quiet spot to stop and have a quick bite to eat -- taking advantage of the same surprisingly warm October weather that inspired Mars and I to recant our previous decision to halt our 2009 golf season and return to the sunny, warm New England links for a few more swings. (Never say nevermore.) And, immersed in the rapidly warming nine a.m. sun, golden tall grasses, red sumac bushes, and orange-turning maple trees, I wasn't in a mindset to be spooked by the frightening foreshadowing of a ferociously feeding gray and white falcon.

We couldn't see exactly what he was dining on -- even as close as twenty yards all entrails look pretty much alike -- but given the plethora of potential prey on the golf links and its surrounding park there are certainly enough easy-to-acquire entrees. One might even suspect that this particular raptor never had a reason to eat away from home or even to do take-out.

We normally see one or two of these large birds of prey sitting atop the course's taller trees every time we play there. They are Red Tailed Hawks -- the scarlet hind feathers are plainly obvious -- and very likely a couple.
"Red-tailed hawk pairs remain together for years in the same territory. These birds are very territorial, and defend territories that range in size from 0.85 to 3.9 square kilometers, depending on the amount of food, perches, and nest sites in the territory."

That converts to about 2.4 miles square, which easily covers the entire park including the golf course.

The hawk finished its snack and flew away just as Mars was hitting her second shot from a spot immediately to its right. It didn't seem to be carrying anything, and I did not go over to see what it might have left behind -- the grass in the rough can be unpleasant enough by itself. It landed in a nearby brightly foliated maple tree and appeared to be settling in for a post-prandial siesta.

We moved on.

The course was empty enough to allow Mars and I to double back and replay several holes. And with no one right behind us we frequently played two and even three balls at a time.

The sun became stronger and warmer. We walked through piles of acorns under oak trees with leaves colored half green and half rust. Fleece sweaters were removed. Pockets of Canada goose feathers and droppings surrounded our golf balls on several fairways. A chocolate Labrador puppy stumbled alongside its "mom" next to the fourth green. By noontime, when we decided to stop playing, the course was beginning to fill with scores of spontaneous half-day vacationers.

At home later that afternoon the pure white finch that we had seen on the prior Sunday reappeared at our bird feeders.

A good omen no doubt -- but on this day unnecessary.

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