The true sign of summer at our home, a one-bedroom apartment with little closet space, is when we start living on our balcony, a space 12 feet wide by six feet. For such a small amount of real estate, it makes us feel like millionaires.
We’re on the top floor, the sixth floor, with uninterrupted views of the Hudson River, a few miles to the west. Every weekday (grrrrr) it’s the damn helicopter of David Rockefeller thudding to and from his enormous estate just up the road. Last night it was a police helicopter, its searchlight sweeping the horizon and capturing us in its beam. Every day, since flight paths were changed, we have a steady stream of private and commercial jets, some flying way too low for our comfort.
But it’s the birds that make it most interesting. I was deeply engrossed in a newspaper story a few years ago when I heard a “whoosh!”
Whoosh? A red-tailed hawk had swooped so close I heard the wind through its feathers. Same thing happened this morning as the sweetie read the paper and a turkey vulture overflew the roof. “Maybe I should move around a bit more,” he said nervously.
One of the sweetie’s specific talents is rescuing the tiny sparrows who fly into our windows and stun themselves. If we get to them quickly enough, a few drops of water and a little careful attention, and off they fly.
A few summer ago, a hawk landed on the balcony railing. I’d written a story about raptors, even having one perch on my arm, so I knew their eyesight is extraordinary. This one stared into my eyes for minutes. Neither of us moved. The sweetie, with quick reflexes, managed to find and focus his camera in time to capture its image.
Then it flew off, leaving only a few grains of sand from its talons as proof I hadn’t just hallucinated.
Last night I finally slept outdoors on the balcony. The night air was fresh and cool, a few stars visible, the dull rumble of bridge traffic only growing quiet around 2:00 a.m. The morning light streamed across the yellow and orange marigolds and strawflowers, now at my eye level.
A strong G & T (gin and tonic, for those who are not yet devotees), the Ipod on shuffle (from Handel’s Messiah to Blue Rodeo), reading all my old shelter magazines (sob, RIP Domino), designing the new kitchen (we’ll get there, somehow) staring up the rainy, foggy Hudson.