The Red Tailed Hawk

The Hudson Valley Community, Words

I’d come upstairs to the bedroom to brush my teeth. Lunch had been quick and on purpose, because I was focused on my work this morning, struggling with despair and a lack of energy. So it was with shock that I looked out the window facing west. There, sitting all by itself, on the telephone wire, close to the house, and to the street, perched elegantly and serenely, was a young red tailed hawk.

My husband and I had been watching a pair of them all summer, circling in the sky and screeching from the nest we couldn’t see for the thick of trees to the back of us. They’d start low and climb high in the blue above us, calling out mournfully to one another. Or so we supposed. From our sleepy, sun-soaked selves at the pool, we followed them with our eyes, making up stories about their romance, wondering at the spectacle, amazed.

The young red tail, spotted and more white than brown, bobbed its eagle-like head, looking this way and that, disregarding the cars and trucks that sped beneath. It seemed to ignore me as well, woman at the window, face behind the cheap binoculars, taking in the shape of its beak, the black over its eyes, its bulk, the fierceness of the long sharp talons gripping the wire. It reminded me of a cat, oddly enough, the way a cat will sit and watch moving things, be it a bug or a chipmunk. And I thought of the tiny chipmunks that had been chirping right out in the open on the patio this morning, three little munchkins, babies perhaps, entertaining me with their innocence as they skirted to and fro in the garden, during my first and second cups of coffee. Would they be safe? Or did it matter, as they were just rodents anyway? I felt somewhat protective of them in that moment, studying the hawk, whom I was sure was watching them now.

But I wouldn’t leave my own perch. I could hardly breathe. The hawk turned its back to me twice to check out something in the orchard. Then it seemed to be staring at the house again, searching. Was it looking for the chickens (which were all gone now)? Would it fly away, would I miss the grand take off? Quick sudden questions, as if I could read its mind, as if I was one with this raptor, aware of survival, of waiting on a Tuesday afternoon.

The entire experience lasted maybe ten minutes. I noticed my inability to ignore it, my inability to tear myself from the window, feeling a primal response that was thrilling, and also, disturbing. I had so much to do, damn it. But the red tail did take flight, however, moving south along the wires, past the telephone pole over the driveway, scouting movement behind my neighbor’s rhododendron. Those wings were magnificent, full and lush and I was immensely pleased that I had waited for the display, to see the young hawk fly away. Me, being this busy, worried, fretful person, yanked from my fatigue and my to-do list, was made supreme spectator and witness to all that is profound, all that is more than the bills or the debates or the concern that another summer has ended. Relief, or a return of faith, I’m not sure what, overcame me, as I walked back to my desk. I cried like a baby. For I had found inspiration in the wings of a bird, in a moment of life that will go on beyond this, that there was still time, and I would be able to create anew, once again.