Thick fog has cocooned the desert in a white wrap this morning. Visibility is limited to about the distance I can lob a tennis ball. The moisture laden air releases sensuous vapors from the desert plants and the aromas supplant the sights I normally enjoy.
The lack of visibility focuses my attention on the immediate surroundings. This is a useful change of perspective. Normally, my thoughts and energies are drawn to possibilities of the future or events of the past. Thick fog brings the focus of attention to the now.
My walk through a favorite wash finds everything changed. The surrounding mountains and hillsides seem nonexistent. Saguaros and bony desert trees arise from the mist like they’ve just arrived, rather than holding their ground all these centuries. Spider webs, usually invisible, gleam from tangles of branches near the ground, moisture highlighting every tenuous strand.
A Cooper’s hawk swoops low overhead, following the twists and turns carved by ephemeral streams draining the unseen slopes. I’ve seen a number of Cooper’s hawks lately, or the same one several times!
At the edge of visibility is the gnarled form of an ironwood tree and perching on a branch about eye level is the Cooper’s hawk. She faces away from me, presenting her long tail and bulky shoulders. I stop walking and softly call the dog to me. Cooper’s are notoriously shy and this is the closest I’ve ever been. I wait for her to spook and fly away but she sits firm. I can see the lighter feathers around her beak, the gleam of an eye beneath a dark cap as she looks my way.
Is a bird that relies on superlative vision uncomfortable flying in fog? Or is she sitting on a fresh kill, reluctant to leave a much needed meal? After watching for awhile, I cluck to the dog and we turn back, walk away. We climb out of the wash and take the trail instead, skirting around the raptor.
Tromping through the cool mist I think about the bird, and hope she’s tearing into warm meat, gulping down much needed protein, and not just grounded by fog. The dog and I climb a ridge to a point where every vista has vanished. How representative of life. As much as we plan and scheme and peer into the distance, we can never know what lies ahead. And what we’ve left behind is gradually erased by the unceasing passage of time.