(The first morning of spring brings more snow and a graveyard apparition.)
Last Saturday the neighborhood was barely twelve hours into spring when we awoke to snow falling softly over the gravestones of the burying ground.In the gray light and shadows of early-morning I spotted a large, mottled creature, coated with fallen flakes and perched amidst the branches of a linden tree. Like a specter frozen in place and stony silence, the raptor did not shift position or betray the least movement from head to talons. The hawk was camouflaged and perfectly situated on a limb high above the slate headstones and stone markers to observe all movement within the area bounded by granite and brick walls.
I knew this apparition was a red-tail and only the most recent of a number of feathered visitors to take up a wintry morning watch as gray squirrels emerge from their treetop nests and a flock of pigeons huddle for warmth on the ledge of the huge chimney atop Villa Michelangelo. They await scraps of bread tossed from upper-floor windows by seniors ensconced in their apartments which abut a lengthy section of the graveyard’s perimeter. Every so often the pigeons suddenly dive en masse to the ground in search of stale rolls. They touch down only for a few moments before flying madly off towards the harbor as a diversionary tactic, then angling sharply in a return ascent to the chimney.
This ritual is usually repeated again and again when there is a good chance that a hawk is close by or on the wing overhead. But today was different. Maybe all the smaller animals decided to hole up somewhere dry and protected. Or perhaps, like us, they had had quite enough of a monochrome world and months of bitter wind and biting cold. They, too, were holding out for genuine color when Lenten purples and wilting green carnations give way to daffodils and the lilies of Easter.
I turned away from this scene as the kettle began to whistle from the stove-top flame. I poured a cup of boiling water over a tea bag and left it on the counter to steep. By the time that I returned to sentry duty at my window on the world, the bird had departed Copp’s Hill. But, it will return again for spring, and I will be back at my post awaiting the arrival of both.
(From Boston’s North End, Thomas F. Schiavoni writes about neighborhood life and city living)