With five miles behind me I was closing the loop, walking back to my start point. On most mornings this would signal the end of the trail, the end of my hike. Today I was thinking of subdued color, color found on sunless flowers. My hike began in the shade of a mountain, it began with shadowed colors, wildflowers leaving the night, waiting for their opportunity, waiting to reflect their part of a sunlit day. Ten more minutes of walking would reward their effort, it would allow them to give me beauty, beauty only a morning can give. I was seeking imperfection to enhance the memory of perfection. My camera would retain but a fraction of the floral display but in my future it would bring me back, back to the majesty of the moment.
Memories and pictures captured I turned, anticipating a short but brisk walk to the parking lot.
Scrub oaks bordered the trail on my right. Sitting on a sharp slope they blocked my view of a golf course and the civilization that bordered Wild Rose. The pleasant barrier would soon end, replaced by a downward sloping meadow, a mix of sage and wildflowers that would soften the visual intrusion, easing me back into daily reality, reminding me my morning with nature was nearing its end.
Wildlife often has distinctive behavior, I sometimes begin to identify an animal by location and/or movement while my eyes scan for physical attributes. A bird soaring low over the meadow banked sharply, reversing its course while diving on prey. Two chukars flushed and escaped from predatory behavior resembling that of a harrier hawk. Like the wildlife I observe, my actions were predictable, my hand moved towards my camera while I prepared to capture the scene. Information raced through my senses, I realized I was living a fantasy, observing a red-tailed hawk from above.
Slowed by the switches of an unfamiliar camera I finally began capturing images hoping auto focus was keeping pace with my shutter, keeping pace with the circling bird. Enhancing the moment, the red-tailed lingered. A decision to add ten minutes to my hike gave my sunlit flowers a companion memory, an eye level red-tailed 20 feet from my lens.
Riding a thermal the hawk departed, leaving to hunt another field. I walked towards home and pondered a question, a question that has accompanied me on decades of hikes.
Was this the right place at the right time, or was it a commitment of time?