I love my neighbourhood. Today I saw a hawk twice, with its mate one of those times. Saturday I saw a vixen fox. Her mate loped across our front yard, in broad daylight, around Christmas on a bitter cold snowy day.
I took this photo today, in the front yard, from the car as we turned out of the drive. It’s one of our red-shouldered hawks (I think!). They often cruise our yard, and live in the neighbourhood. A mated pair and their juvenile.
The foxes live just down the street a block, and around the corner, in a wooded strip beside the creek. I see them infrequently, but not rarely. And I never take any of this for granted.
Today’s 30 Days of Love prompt asks that we inspire creativity, and action across generations. Birds (and birding) do that. I’ve never met a kid who doesn’t love to look at birds, look for birds. Once they spot one themselves, and learn to identify a few, they’re hooked. It’s a hobby that only gives: requiring no expensive equipment to set up — just a feeder, if you’re home-bound — and getting you outside (or at least near a window!) for hours. Which means you don’t need to be able-bodied to enjoy it: a child home sick, or a child who isn’t able to go outside can still make use of a window with a feeder and an ID book from the library.
For most of us, our first bird is a robin. Certainly it was for me, as my father sang me the song Little Robin Redbreast, sat up in a tree from the time he returned from Korea. So a dogwood tree in the front yard, bearing the most perfect triad of eggs, is a rare gift — almost as beloved as a fox on a dark winter night.
From robins I progressed to the birds I found in our homes overseas — collared doves and bulbuls and gulls, mostly. And then slowly learning the birds at Mom & Dad’s — red-headed woodpeckers, and crows, and scissor-tailed flycatchers, and quail and wild turkey and so many more. Carefully opening the bird house to see the unfledged bluebird nestlings. Watching the wild turkeys see refuge in the yard during hunting season, knowing no one would hurt them there.
Now, I am learning suburban Oklahoma birds. And we have so many to be grateful for. Each has, at various times, inspired me to write — the three crows that fly together, the hummers Sophie the cat used to pluck carefully from mid-air, delivering them unhurt to my feet, waiting for me to praise her. I’ve written about Carolina wrens and titmice and chickadees, sparrows and starlings and grackles. Soon I will try to weave a skein of words to catch a hawk in.
Today, as I watched the hawk drop his freshly killed squirrel at the feet of his mate, I thought how intertwined love and creativity are. This poem from Robinson Jeffers is a perfect example: you need to love deeply to be this clear, this brutally honest and incisive. This devastating. But love and art are. And each feeds the other.
Hurt Hawks ~ by Robinson Jeffers
The broken pillar of the wing jags from the clotted shoulder,
The wing trails like a banner in defeat,
No more to use the sky forever but live with famine
And pain a few days: cat nor coyote
Will shorten the week of waiting for death, there is game without talons.
He stands under the oak-bush and waits
The lame feet of salvation; at night he remembers freedom
And flies in a dream, the dawns ruin it.
He is strong and pain is worse to the strong, incapacity is worse.
The curs of the day come and torment him
At distance, no one but death the redeemer will humble that head,
The intrepid readiness, the terrible eyes.
The wild God of the world is sometimes merciful to those
That ask mercy, not often to the arrogant.
You do not know him, you communal people, or you have forgotten him;
Intemperate and savage, the hawk remembers him;
Beautiful and wild, the hawks, and men that are dying, remember him.
I’d sooner, except the penalties, kill a man than a hawk; but the great redtail
Had nothing left but unable misery
From the bones too shattered for mending, the wing that trailed under his talons when he moved.
We had fed him for six weeks, I gave him freedom,
He wandered over the foreland hill and returned in the evening, asking for death,
Not like a beggar, still eyed with the old
Implacable arrogance. I gave him the lead gift in the twilight. What fell was relaxed,
Owl-downy, soft feminine feathers; but what
Soared: the fierce rush: the night-herons by the flooded river cried fear at its rising
Before it was quite unsheathed from reality.