These days, the last wedge of the afternoon is a kind of a compressed day, going with startling but fluid speed from daylight to dusk in a half an hour. I walked through that wedge from Alewife station, the northern end of the Red Line subway, along the Bikeway to Spy Pond, on either side of four o'clock today.
I had three encounters. The first was a hawk in a tree. Always exciting and faintly threatening to see that heavy shape up in the branches. I backed up, walked around, to get a better angle. A redtail, I thought. It was the second hawk in a tree I'd seen in a few days, after a sharpshin in the neighbor's tree, in the rain, through the kitchen window. This one didn't care for my scrutiny. It opened its wings, rolled out, tail fanned in full yes-I'm-a-redtail-what-of-it fashion and flew on a flat line toward the sunset.
The next encounter was botanical. A small tree sporting a full dress of catkins (or slippers for toes) that looked a bit like pussywillows but bigger, and jade green, not silvery. A magnolia, I thought. I hadn't known they put these out in the fall. ("I stroked one. Felt nice. I knew whose work this was. Nature's. I could spot it a mile away.") Leaving the magnolia (it was, after all, Magnolia Park), I entered the woodsy part of the trail, again the old gold colonnade, late riches for November, but some stubborn green too, passing a mom and baby in parked stroller, being passed by bikes and quicker walkers (though as they approach, you tend to increase your pace, complicating things). Thinking of how October is a month older, but November, oddly, is the aged one, until I realize that November IS (or was) October.
Then, I emerged from the woods for my third encounter, the final act, a diffusion of lemon yellow layering the horizon on the other side of Spy Pond. Its water barely rippled. And it looked like a lake at a sleepover camp, the way the summer evening settles over the dark opposite shore. I watched like a hunkered redtail as the yellow deepened, and the faintest pink rays, only apparent by looking away, suggested themselves above it like watermarks of light. Then yellow went peach, all very slow and drawn out. Birds going somewhere in twos or threes. And all that was missing was a bugle playing taps across the water, the final long note lingering.
Time to head back to my bunk.