An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
Comments welcome!

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Free to fly

All those who see me
And all who believe in me
Share in the freedom
I feel when I fly.
-          John Denver, The Eagle and The Hawk

My weekday lunchtime rides are mostly on a network of gravel service roads around the local company site, travelling around and through many, many acres of variable-age woods. Wildlife is prevalent. It’s a rare day that I don’t see at least one deer, and I get to see the new fawns grow up from wobbly spotted waifs to bold adults. Rabbits and squirrels are populous as well. I’ve also seen raccoon, coyote, and the occasional owl.

But yesterday I had a rare close encounter with, if I believed in such things, one of my spirit animals.

I have a sense of wonder about raptors, eagles and hawks in particular. I don’t know really why, but it’s always been there. Maybe it’s the sheer size (though recently I saw wild turkeys for the first time, and didn’t get that same sense). Or the hunting aspect.

When I worked in Southeast Alaska, bald eagles were often sighted. There was an area near the camp where a stream wound its way through an old-growth forest of firs, the ground moss covered. Eagles would congregate in this area, and we could walk through it without disturbing them. Standing at the foot of a massive tree with an eagle perched just twenty feet overhead is quite the experience.

So back to yesterday… I was doing my normal lunchtime ride, on the second lap of four, in a paved section between the trails. I had just crested the hill and turned to the left. I saw a hawk on an overhead branch about fifteen feet up. As I passed under, it unfolded its wings. I figured it would just fly into the woods.

The angle of the sun after the turn was directly at my back, and I could see the shadow of the hawk as it dropped off the branch, right in line with me. It swooped down over my head and went straight in front of me, gliding through two slow and shallow arcs, one right, then one left, never more than ten feet in front of me. It then gave one gentle push with the wings, accelerated and glided up to another overhead branch, just ahead.

As I passed under it, the wings unfolded, and down it swooped again, this time closer, coming within three feet of the ground in front of me. Then it arced up to eye level, moved left and watched me as we matched speed. For some time we just moved along together, a few feet apart, watching each other.

When the path turned again, the hawk turned left and into the trees, my way going right and into another gated service road.

I felt awed to have shared that time with such an animal. And thankful to the regal bird for allowing me to tag along and lend me some of that freedom.