Take Off

Figure 1: Female red-tailed hawk taking flight from her nest, following the mate who just took to the sky as well.

Lost my job last Monday.

Lost? No, that don't feel right. I know exactly where the contract for my employment was when I exited from the staff entrance over a week ago. Even now, it's still unlost to me, just no longer my contract. It ended, as contracts do. The next phase of the project will be getting under way without me. Started to cry, in that way that I do, on the drive home. Quietly, sniffling every few breaths, eyes on the road. What will my daily To Do list look like now? Will I compose, for sanity's sake, tasks related to my next hopeful position? Or will I drill out an arrangement of chores and breathing exercises to occupy my workhorse brain in the absence of dutiful assignments? Always with the lists, even when out of a job. Keeps me perched upright, on the toes, almost like I'm about the sprint one way or another.

Funny, I can't sprint. Always been much more of a distance-over-speed kind of jogger. Lists will be writ on journal paper, the right-most column, neat little cubes to the left of each word or phrase to be checked when complete. Smooth, white paper, lined in readiness for ink, instead of the unwelcoming yellow square of the (previous) office sticky notes. They were that pale yellow that darkens under the buzz of fluorescent lighting. Yellow like dried phlegm. Mucous, maybe, repeatedly wiped on the sleeve of your blue checkered shirt on the drive home.

My love calls to speak to me in her harmonic, gentle tones, a voice like walking onto a warm hardwood floor with the smell of an up-kept log fireplace. A voice encouraging mindfulness in its tone and delivery. Mind the fullness. She comes home for lunch to check on me. Sits on the other side of the couch and pats her left shoulder, Come, lay with me for just a few minutes. Let me dry those tears with a merciful thumb and hold you without judgement. She knows I love my jobs, even when they're challenging. Especially when they're challenging. Alone again. Try to clean the kitchen- make it as far as the dishes in the sink before breaking into another roll of quiet mourning. Grief or fear? Yes. Go to the gym, a midday treat! Under different halogens the pages of my reading still turn yellow, but the sweet smell of effort being exerted all around comforts me. Yellow paper, like stains on an aged Hanes tee. Step up the incline and keep up the pace. Recall just months ago, when you couldn't even do that without shooting nerve pain? Isn't this nice? Relief comes in waves of sourness, it drips onto the bottom of the page. Wipe it off quickly, but will it still yellow?

A week inches by to the highs and lows of a caterpillar-crawl. No follow-up calls left to make. They have my resume and letters, each crafted separately for their respective audience inviting applicants to a position offering enrichment. And income. A few folks even promise to call when the application closes and the review process begins. That should be comforting, but it has all the appeal of re-heated cafeteria food. Feel lucky you have it, but try to hide your disappointment.

Piano lesson with Dixie on Wednesday, Tuesday is a loss for chores as they were all run through on that second Monday of funemployment. F---unemployment. Go on a walk -you contract cabin fever like a spider catches flies. Go to see that view of the High Bridge from below, the one over Latah Creek. Take your new-to-you lenses. See what you can before the sky churns with snow and the ground turns dusty with white powdered sugar. Like a beignet. Half way to the turn-around point along the Latah Creek trail, only the solitary twitter of a wintering chickadee breaks the tussling sounds of the low creek through its channel. I can't find it, but I know it's in that tree to the left of the apartment because there's a feeder still advertising free winter noms for birds nearby. I hope it makes it to spring. Has a successful clutch. Make the trail more musical the following winter. A large primary feather -turkey, of course- has been stuck in the thawing soil just off-trail. Doesn't present very natural, maybe it was put there by someone else. Into the fold of my hat it goes. A hat that reads "Birds, Rocks, Bliss" in white lettering. I pull it as far down as my glasses will allow. The air is dry, but mostly still, and winter impresses itself upon my walk.

On the way back, now, it's more of the same. But ho! A merganser disturbing the flow! Common! Female! She's gone before I screw in the optimal lens. A fine day to make a day fine, perhaps. The water is low and accessible from this bank. Take a photo. Set it to auto and just take a photo of anything. Perform an action to generate the motivation to seek out further actions. Find anything you think could compose this overcast lighting around a decently focused image. There's a print! Racoon! I can hear, briefly, the timid skittering of claws on the eroded stones pocking the grey sand of the print. Must be a good place to be, if you're a rodent. Plenty of den potential. Good cover. There! A color catches the sun, funneling it into a glowing effect between the gravel! It's a mussel shell, still occupied! I toss it back into the water, to settle in the sand and clay. Now there's something to actively look for: signs of life along a bridge-covered creek.

Graffiti artists color my view looking at the the structures rumbling with commerce, above. That portrait of a bird skull, I recognize- the artist participated in the graffiti show hosted in the soon-to-be-renovated gallery at the downtown Spokane library. Looks almost identical to the one they painted for the gallery. Neat. But I'm not here for a show. When I find it, I'll know what I'm here looking for on a February afternoon. Ah, yes, a baldie soars on by. How nice for them, a day spent in the sky. A nest! A raptor nest! I can make it out in the shadow under the bridge. What a clever spot they've picked. Expertly hidden in most hours of the day. Who made it? Still an active nest, by the signs. Snap a shot of that and wait for the nesters' return. This berm is higher, better to wait for a look. Oh, look, here they come, at speed! Alighting on their next, a pair of red-tailed hawks! They brought in with them a catch, mouse maybe? I focus for a catch of my own.

Not a pair to dawdle, the two are up and away in seconds. They circle over the creek, airlines entwining counter-clockwise toward each other as they coast, climbing upward. It is a search pattern for prey, I know this, but today it is a dance of lovers -partners!- to be enjoyed against an azure backdrop of sunshine breaking through the opaque grey/white clouds. The two raptors don't seem to be in much of a hurry. Good, neither am I. When they find what they're looking for, they'll know it and be off. For now, they dance lazily together, closer than any other bird would be allowed. It looks very much like their space, up there, illuminated and circling. Do they remember the eagle that just passed over? Is that why they returned to check the nest? Could be. And there they go, riding up a thermal, moving westward in stylized grace.

Take me with you.

With feet planted firmly on this berm of earth, I feel the slightest twinge of change about the air. I am imagining it, obviously. Must be a lift in my perspective. Wonderful thing to have, an upward perspective. My turn to circle back to my nest, start the prep for dinner. Think I will make kale chips, too. Tell her what her strength has done for me, brainstorm on the walk back ways to show her that my professional lens is also flexible. Transitional. Malleable, in this whirling state of national affairs. We will be just fine. She knows that already, but I can be part of that mantra, too. Time is valuable. These urban birds, still scintillatingly natural.

The End