Walking home from the bus stop last evening—for the first time I really and truly have to admit to myself, shivering in the near-darkness, that winter has very nearly arrived—it happened again. Same, dense rustle of feathers, I look upward to the telephone pole, see the birds (two this time) drop like heavy, smooth river stones, straight to the street, thudding to the hard concrete into a tangled sprawl of feathers less than two feet from me.
Only this time, it isn’t a dying, juvenile robin. This time, it’s one of my hawks, one of the red-tails that nest each season in the tall tall tree across the street from my home, and a dark greyish pigeon. I can only guess that, despite all the hawk’s fluid grace when flying, the two birds have somehow collided mid-air, sent them both stunned to the ground. from the vivid coloring, I guess it to be the adult female, not the darker male and not one of the pair’s young. I’m certain it’s the bird I’ve watched year after year. And all I know is that she’s standing close enough for me to reach out and touch her. That and this incident has just left me utterly and completely startled.
I see cars coming in either direction; I must do something. So I do something really stupid, and walk partway into the street, approach the hawk, dangerously close. I stand so that the cars have to go around me. A year ago, M. and I did this very same thing, helping a snake that had been awakened by the unseasonably warm October weather, cross the street safely.
A couple in a silver sedan slow, roll down the passenger window, stare at the birds still on the ground. The hawk has stood, but she clearly is disoriented. And the pigeon, well, it’s safe to say the pigeon has not survived, either the collison or the fall.
The cars pass, the hawk attempts flight. She makes it to the other side of the street, to a front porch. Her wing is bent awkwardly, clearly in a twisted position that isn’t quite right. We stare at one another with blinking eyes for many minutes, the human-animal distance between us breathtakingly small. Her beauty, which i can finally see in detail for the first time, brings tears to my eyes. I watch and wait.
More moments pass. She turns and takes flight, erratic and obviously strained, makes it to the roof of a two-story apartment building. In this instant, I have a helpless, but inevitable, feeling that I can do nothing but trust. I will see her again next spring.