The evening before I left for the mountains, I headed down to the makeshift house to say goodbye.

More for me than them, of course. But I’d been watching their eyes gain light and feathers develop from tiny fibrous stubs ever since their eggs appeared, one by one, under the since-departed horse trailer.

I wanted to take one last look, because I’d already be under an alpine sky by the time they flew the nest.

Hopefully. I’d just seen a hawk escaping overhead with a tiny bird in its clutches, culled from one of the eucalyptus trees bordering the ranch. With any luck, the six fledglings, still tucked away in the oil-barrel-roof-tile-paver-house I’d cobbled together, would find a better fate.

I peered into the small alcove, prepared to quietly murmur my farewell, but a sudden ruffling made me catch my breath. I’d had the same surprised reaction when 6 bare baby bird heads had unexpectedly popped up a couple of weeks ago. Back then, I’d thought they were still confined to their eggs, so the tiny squeaking beaks and sightless eyes had caught me off-guard.

As can other eruptions of new life, disruptions in too-comfortable norms, that shift focus away from the daydream and into the present.

Where these small pieces of hope had finished their incubation.

And they flew.