Sunday, November 22, 2009

Statistical Hawk, Individual Hawk

Solitary hawk, Catskills

Shortly down the road, I realized we had to turn around. I forgot something. Turning around always feels like a jinx.

Halfway up the lane, Jared pointed up. A hawk was perched on a low branch just off the road. We watched, amazed. He was so close. His feathers were ruffled - a red tailed hawk. He flapped to another part of the tree and fought with a 10 foot tall multiflora rose shrub.

Many of his his tail feathers were broken, breast feathers awry and a wound on his beak. We watched him fly laboriously to another tree.

I felt upset, worried. Could a cat have done this? I wondered aloud. I doubted this very much, but the ability to blame a guilty party (a loosed pet cat) seemed like a good way to direct my feelings. No chance, replied Jared. A great horned owl? Perhaps.

A neighbor came by a suggested: Another one of them could have done it. They attack each other. I felt irritated. He went on to talk about an owl hunting his pigeons. I realized "each other" meant all birds. Does a robin think, I'm being chased by one of my own, as the Cooper's hawk's talon grasps his body?

A hungry, hurt hawk. An individual, unlike the statistical birds that are eaten, die of old age or the tragedies that take birds in the modern world. The statistical birds that I don't see, the hungry, hurt hawks that alit just out of view of my rearview mirror as I buzz down the road.

For this individual hawk, I'm wishing him well. An easy meal of a mouse who I don't know so well.

We joked about feeding the hawk one of the squirrels who harassed both of us - separately - when we hunted in the back yard. No, you can't kill the neighborhood squirrel family. You have to go to someone else's neighborhood, and kill theirs.

Wait until we put up the birdfeeders. See what you think then, he said.

Yeah, but then they'll get the mange again. I'll stop being angry at the squirrels. I'll worry about them.

It's complicated. "What you don't know, won't kill you." "Not in my backyard." There are handy ways of manipulating and defining instinct, empathy, justice, fairness.

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