Friday, July 1, 2011

Owls and parks

The other weekend we drove up to Miyoshi City in search of fireflies (last post). After arriving, we had a few hours to kill before dark, so we grabbed some food and stopped by 尾関山公園 "Ozeki Yama Park."

From the parking lot, the first thing I notice is a dry-creek rock garden. Huge boulders outline an imagined waterway bordered by hydrangeas and stone lanterns and crossed by several bridges. A large dormant waterwheel adorns one end. My first thought is how beautiful it would be were water actually flowing. But as I look on the garden bathed in the afternoon sunlight filtering through the trees, I begin to "see" the water that isn't there, and imagine what the designer wanted to suggest.

Heading past the garden and into the park, I look up into the nearby beech trees and spot a large bird standing vigil over the path. Immediately I recognize the outline of a small hawk or kite. But as I peer up, I notice its huge yellow eyes--not the angled, piercing eyes of a hawk, but the saucer-round staring eyes of an owl.
Having never seen an owl in the wild, I excitedly raise my camera and start snapping away, my subject benignly, if not disinterestedly watching, expression filled, I imagine, with the patient, ancient wisdom famed of his kind. He poses for a number of poses willingly enough, until I move in closer when, finally tiring of the imposition on his afternoon, he flies off.

Later, after a fruitless Google search in English for this bird, I have more luck with Japanese and find the bird is called an あおぶずく-- a brown hawk-owl. Common to South-east Asia,
the owl has features resembling hawks and kites, but shares the typical traits of its more distinctive cousins, like its large eyes and nocturnal lifestyle.

After my encounter with the owl, the rest of the park is pleasant, but ultimately uninspiring. We follow a path up a wooded hill leading to a wide grassy field at the summit. Cherry trees ring the outside, and a large, dilapidated stage sits off at one end. We sit in the grass next to a cherry tree and begin feasting on our lunch, while the denizens of mosquitos begin feasting on us. We quickly tire of the arthropodic assault and flee back down to the car, deciding its time to begin our search for fireflies.

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