While it was widely reported that the long-time Naturalist of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority had left for points west, few noted that Martin Ogle gave all of us a very special parting gift. Martin’s breezy book, In the Eye of the Hawk --- Reflections along the Potomac, is a must-read for everyone who loves Potomac Overlook Regional Park.
Hawk is organized according to the four cardinal directions of the Park’s Indian Circle Garden. In the book’s opening chapter, called “The South,” Martin stresses “knowing and nurturing our place” by telling the stories of people and their connections to the Park. The Native Americans who spent their springs and summers on these grounds, the Italian quarrymen who made use of the rocks, the Donaldson family that farmed this land, the Union troops that cleared the trees, and Fannie White and her apple orchard all come back to life in the pages of Hawk.
In “The West,” the focus shifts to “Introspection” and we learn of Martin’s journey through many landscapes --- Korea, Wisconsin, Georgia, and the Four Corners region of the West --- and his reflections on the similarity of symbols used by many different peoples.
Martin next turns to “The North,” where we “must confront the hardship and even violence that sometimes befall our lives.” He describes the park in vivid detail as the landscape struggles during a period of drought. When the rains finally came, he writes, the “slurping was almost audible.”
The last direction, “The East,” concerns “vision” and gives the book its name. Martin describes an almost surreal encounter when he gazed into one of the eyes of a hawk and felt “as if my very soul was suddenly linked to that of the bird, and we were separated only by a thin mysterious film.” It is an encounter reminiscent of Aldo Leopold’s description of watching the “green fire” as it slowly fades from the eye of a dying wolf.
But Martin is first and foremost a scientist. The true strength of Hawk lies in how Martin skillfully incorporates his many technical insights gleaned from years of observation and study. Read this book and you will never look at Potomac Overlook the same way again.
Mike Nardolilli serves as President of the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust, President of the Arlington Outdoor Lab, and as a Member of the Board of Directors of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority.