Diesel engines belched to the heavens. Tires swished along the four-lane. I ventured onto the crossing, safely navigating to the opposite sidewalk.
A mild descent to the corner gave way to a multi-use paved path paralleling a local road. I turned uphill and, as I walked, the natural earth barrier between the path and the road grew in height and breadth to graciously diminish the assault of road noise.
It’s a working lunch for this Black Phoebe. (Sayornis nigricans)
I then heard the crows, wheeling overhead and cackling at each other like bitter old men under a gentle warm sun. Squirrels chattered and scurried in the tall grass lining the trail, seemingly happy to be on the clock, going about their routine. Beyond the tall grass and the oak trees, the hills were aglow, having fully traded away their vivid Spring green for a pelt of velvet gold. I crossed Deer Creek, my eyes upon those magnetic hills. I let the sun ooze into me and just let my feet carry my body forward, as if with portentous anticipation that these carefree moments should also spin my thoughts into gold.
In sun-warmed reverie, I began to reflect on the nature of an embankment alongside my trail, its growth of short grasses – in contrast to the greater bulk of surrounding tall grasses – signifying a unique drainage pattern. Indeed, a moderately large patch of mugwort was flowering merrily just ahead on the opposite side of the trail. It suggested that water was collecting there, close to the surface, providing a home for the thirsty mugwort. Something in the soil beneath the surface – a large rock field, perhaps – seemed to be diverting the hillside’s water flow slightly upstream to where it could meet the tiny creek.
I emerged from an overhanging oak to witness a male phoebe darting overhead, a vivid image of flycatching prowess. I stopped to watch the tufted tuxedoed bird patrol his small patch of sky. With sharp eyes spying insects on the wing, he flitted about at quick and regular intervals to return within seconds to his fencepost headquarters.
I returned too, along the asphalt trail, musing in and out of shadow and sun, the road traffic and the pressures of the morning consumed by the warm sun and breeze.
And that’s how I spent 20 minutes at lunch today.