Encounter leaves lasting impression

It caught my eye. No matter how hard I was concentrating, no matter how fast I had to work, no matter the obligations. I looked up.

It came to rest about 20 feet away from me. Between us was the window. I sat in the warmth, cozied by civilization, at the computer. I stared out the window at wildness.

It rested on the willow oak limb, gorgeous against the gray sky. I did not know its name.

At first I thought it was an owl, but I knew I was wrong when it turned its head.

Some kind of raptor, I thought, but I did not want to tear myself away. I was afraid it would leave if I moved.

I didn't move.

I wanted to take note of its coloring, register its markings, memorize the shape of its tail and its beak. But I found myself entranced. I only wanted to take in the still power in it.

It rested, quietly, though it turned its head to check out its surroundings.

It seemed to look at me.

I forgot to think about time, except to hope for more of it. The bird before me was a giant, in the prime of its life. Its red-brown head and shoulders, its black and white wingtips and tail made it the best-dressed avian I could imagine. It was elegant, certain, steady.

After a very long time, the phone rang. I turned away from the window.

When I looked back, the bird was gone.

I felt the most awful regret. I could have watched him a long time.

I counted myself lucky indeed when he visited again. Only the next time, he landed in my front yard.

I was looking out the window while washing dishes when those great, broad wings flashed by. The bird landed in the mulch around my magnolia tree. He seemed to find the chips and leaves interesting. He kept lifting his feet almost as if he wanted to check out what clung to his talons.

Every now and again, he lifted and stretched out his wings, but he didn't fly away.

Every time he stretched, my breath caught in my throat. He was so beautiful, so gorgeous to see.

By that time, I could repeat his markings to myself without taking my eyes off him. I wanted to know who he was. And when he finally flew off, I located a little book I keep near the kitchen - one that has many plates of birds native to the United States.

I looked up raptors and found him - a red-shouldered hawk.

Over the next few days I hoped to see him again.

But he did not come while I was glancing out the windows, up from my computer or over the dishes in the sink.

He came at night, in a dream.

In my dream, he was much smaller. He was a young thing, not yet possessing the power of my flesh-and-blood visitor.

But he accompanied me where I walked, flying from tree to tree. In the dream, it was spring and the leaves rustled.

I could not take my eyes off him.

Now I long to see him again - in my dreams or on the trees around our home. I should learn something from his appearance here.

Perhaps, at this time of my life, to look up?