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Birds

The park bench situates its view of the north meadow and urbanites moving through Saturday leisure: children gasping and grasping, yuppies cuddling nigh postcoitally, indie kiddies chuckling like shams. I gazed on it all dull-headedly until the hawk struck the grass. This confused things. For one, it happened fast. One instant soughing conversation and derailleur clicks and slow graceless movement, intertwining fluidly. The next a gesturelike blur and a large bird on the ground, eyes up and glaring, distressful or angry or ravenous or pained. Raptors seldom hit the ground. Except to prey.

But I didn’t think of that. I thought of the osprey I saw here three or so weeks ago, which might have flown through a powerline and which could then only fly like a torn kite. Curvingly, earthtending, with thudding landings. But still unpathetic, attracting stares even shattered. It struggled and failed to take off repeatedly, and gathered a crowd of us to snap images with our phones. “What kind is it?” “It’s an osprey. Look at the mask.” Knowing the names of things is pleasant: its we bring messy blurs into focus. I also wanted to tell the kid what his dad wouldn’t, but didn’t. Finally the bird managed to get onto a low branch and glower at us.

The hawk this morning was not broken. It moved from the grass to a high branch wasting no effort, and then I noticed the strange clump of feathers around its right talon. Until the clump fluttered I remained confused. Then it clicked: sparrow. It was a slow process; the hawk (a red tail) was not kind. Its beak worked without graceful killing. This reminded me of Ann Lauterbach’s line. Nature loves a plague as much as a rose. There’s as much sense talking about nature’s love as birds’ kindness.

The sparrow’s body struggled for a long minute, being dismantled, before stilling. Its wing-feathers spiraled to the ground like seedpods, or leaves, in the interim. An oblivious jogger, earbuds in, ran through them.

Categories: Anecdotes.

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