Not Alone

I wandered the arboretum paths

finding the California Natives and a bench,

losing my mind deciding and re-deciding,

as if my life — and yours — depended on one thing.

The quail came,

cautious, curious, plump and clicking

from beneath the manzanita,

pecking, preening,

eyeing my empty hands.

Topknot quivering, the male

mounted a rock, alert and watching

his flock fanning wide by my feet

busy in their need for food.

Late lupines bloomed beside his rock:

carpenter bees and one butterfly,

hoverflies and a long black lizard,

something buzzing in the bush beyond —

all these the flock ignored.

I moved my arm.

The quail raced

losing themselves in ten directions

when the male called and dropped, vanishing

as if his life — and theirs — depended on one thing.

I waited, as still as stone,

hoping they would return.

A Cooper’s Hawk swept over the path

and dove.

By Ron Harton
father and son sitting on a bench in the garden

Photo by Kavida Vilawan

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