Sunday, December 20, 2009

Hawk, fallen

A few days ago, Joe and I were walking and on our way home, just around the corner from our house, we found a dead zone-tailed hawk lying at the edge of the sidewalk. It hadn't fallen there; someone, I think, had picked it up out of the street and laid it there gently, respectfully.  Its wings were folded and it looked peaceful, almost alive, except that its crimson eye was beginning to cloud over.  It was so beautiful, even in death. We stood and looked at it for a long time, wondering if we should do something. It seemed wrong to think of taking it into our yard to bury it, though we probably would have buried it in the yard if we had found it there.  Finally it seemed right to leave it where it was, for others of nature's creatures to do what was natural.  I have a friend, a poet, who heard something hit her window one night and went out the next morning to find a dead hawk.  She cut off the feet and hung them up as a talisman. I thought about that, or about pulling out one of this hawk's gorgeous tail feathers, but I couldn't.

A couple of days went by. I was busy with other projects and didn't go walking.  Joe reported it was still there, undisturbed (the eyes were gone, but that always happens quickly).  We decided to take it down into the wash, not to bury it but to place it in some more sheltered spot among the brush and trees there.  We would have done that yesterday, but when we went out it was gone, with no sign it had ever been there except in our memories, and in the memory of that good person who first laid it where we found it.

I wonder how it died, how it fell from heaven to our suburban street. That species is uncommon here at the best of times, and this time of year it shouldn't be here at all. We are fortunate to have as many raptors in our area as we do.  I've written of some of them before--the red-tailed hawks that we see often, the family of Harris hawks that used to live in a neighbor's huge, diseased pine tree until the people cut it down, the lovely little kestrel that sometimes appears on the power line at the corner of our street. I'm sure this magnificent bird wasn't hit by a car, like the doves we see so often.  Did someone shoot it?  We didn't hear anything.  Was it a sudden spasm of the heart?  Or did it, like Icarus, fly too close to the sun?

Baby birds fall from their nests and we try to put them back, to save them.  It never seems to work. Sometimes we see smaller birds lying dead, and I always wonder why.  Predators take away their prey and consume it; they don't leave it lying whole and perfect like the house finch I found in the garden once.    Maybe we're not supposed to know how or why they die.  I'm okay with that.  I don't need to know everything.  Knowing wouldn't make the sadness any less, nor does my ignorance diminish their beauty or the sense that we are blessed to be witnesses to nature at any stage of life, even the end.  Living or dead, they touch us.  They are part of us.  When we see them soar, our spirits soar with them, and even though I never saw this particular bird in flight, in my heart, our spirits soar together.

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