I’m an easily distracted tennis player, with modest skill and less stamina. I only play at all because my younger daughter is determined to play a great deal this summer and improve her game, and as she has improved, so have I. I’ve even stopped calling what we play “VBT” (Very Bad Tennis). We enjoy ourselves and it’s good for us both. I even win the occasional game, though never a set. She’s working on hitting with spin, and will soon leave me in the dust.
Tonight all the courts we usually frequent were in use or, in the case of the high school courts, closed for resurfacing, and we found our way to the deserted Upper Arb courts on the east edge of the Carleton campus. There were no nets, but we decided to ignore the fact and just hit the ball around. A casual game of Ultimate Frisbee was taking place on the adjacent playing field; I could see the sweat darkly staining some T-shirts on this mild but muggy evening.
Suddenly I caught a glimpse of some really large wings passing behind the tall trees bordering the courts to the south. Thinking it was a possible great blue heron, I paused between shots to see the bird emerge, flying with steady purpose to the northeast into the Arb. It was not a heron, it was a large, dark raptor, perhaps a juvenile eagle that didn't yet have its white markings, very clearly carrying something in its talons — a fish seemed most likely, but perhaps a rodent or something else. I couldn’t tell, and it quickly disappeared over the trees. Man, I wished I had my binoculars. I’ll have to bring them next time (and I’m only half kidding).
The Ultimate players cooled down on the side of the hill where we sled in winter, and then traipsed away, leaving us with sole possession of the whole field. We played a little longer, and when we switched sides so that I was again facing the field, I saw that about three dozen Canada geese (several sets of parents with their so-quickly-adolescent offspring, I presume) had wandered up from the Lyman Lakes and were grazing all over the field like so many pastoral sheep in the golden light of the fading day.
Nets or no nets, I’ll be happy to play on those courts again.