I spent last weekend in Big Bend National Park where Internet connection is spotty, at best. Disconnected from my laptop, I felt free and unmoored. Free to keep my head in the clouds, such as this storm cloud formation that loomed over the Sierra del Carmen Mountain range on Friday evening.
The Red-tailed Hawks of Big Bend National Park don’t spook easily. Last Sunday, on a late-afternoon drive across the park following a day of hiking, I spotted this hawk sitting high in an ocotillo. I stopped abruptly, pulling over on the roadside several feet past the ocotillo. Afraid of scaring off the big bird, I stayed in the car, shoving the camera out the driver’s side window. But the angle was too awkward. I couldn’t get a clear shot. So I slowly backed up, holding my breath and the camera at the ready. The hawk stayed put. I backed up a little more. Still good. I got a few shots.
Then the hawk looked at me and slowly flew away, low over the desert floor in the direction of the Chisos Mountains. It was a deliberate, unhurried flight. It was, I thought, a flight of integrity. A flight of authenticity. I interrupted the hawk’s privacy. The desert called. The call of the hunt.
Of all the magnificent scenes that Big Bend National Park has to offer, none is more compelling than that of The Window, a V-shaped notch in the Chisos Mountains visible from the Chisos Basin visitors center complex. This past Saturday, while on vacation in Big Bend, I waited for sunset to appear through The Window — the obligatory, must-take-home photographic shot. But while waiting for the brilliant hues that only a far West Texas sky can provide, I found myself tracking another kind of light. Every few seconds, it seemed, the rays of light subtly moved, shifting their course from the tops of mountain peaks to down near The Window Trail that I and thousands of other park visitors have traveled.
I lowered the camera and watched the near-final light of day dance across the valley below. Then I raised the camera, sampling the light, grateful that it was not yet time for the sun to descend.