Roadside Hawk

On a dead tree snag in the Papaya plantation below the hut, a Roadside Hawk, Buteo magnirostris perched for nearly an hour. Yellow eyes below sharp brows, powerful, hooking orange beak black at its tip, the bird profoundly alive and alert in searing afternoon heat, at first issuing raw challenges to the sky and all around rreeeaew....! but then it grew silent, silent and still, watching, watching piercingly, waiting.

Then a leap forward, a brief gliding straight at me but then an eruption of spread wings, braking in midair, wingtip primary feathers extended like flat fingers on hands signaling Halt! Stop everything exactly here, now! and then so fast my eyes couldn't follow, a steep dive into bushes. Five long seconds of quietness and stillness, and then silently he rose, beak forward like the explosive tip of a straight-running torpedo skimming atop the field's shocked quiescence, long legs dangling something stiff and mummy-like in curved claws, the thing pale, unmoving, not even quivering, already having given up everything, and the two of them vanished into the woods leaving an empty stage.

There'd been something in the bushes foraging or maybe moving out of the sun into a leaf's shade, and then that living entity existed no more. In an instant, a hole was rent into the day's living fabric, a hole that closed as soon as the hawk flew away, these words and my memory and maybe for a few minutes the hawk's own memory all that remained of something that a few seconds earlier had had its own interests, its own needs, pleasures and troubles, now nothing, nothing, nothing.

In these pages often the thought has been forwarded that human perceptions are illusory, that the sense of all we experience depends on how our fickle, erratic and often malfunctioning brains interpret electrical stimuli fed into our brains by neurons connected to sensors exposed to our environment. In that context the hawk soars as metaphor and appends a footnote:

For, of all illusions humans are vulnerable to, none is greater than this: That there is comfortable, dependable security. All defenses and safe zones are exactly like a leaf offering shade at the edge of a Papaya field, with hawks in the neighborhood. Security is a mental fabrication beset with cracks, warpings and imaginary boundaries through which at any moment a hawk may enter, talons and beak razor sharp, yellow eyes set exactly on us.

This insight is exquisite. It generously reminds us that we are such transitory, inconsequential stuff that we have every right -- maybe even can interpret from our condition that we have an obligation to the Creator of the situation -- to delight in the present, the here and now, to exult in craving whatever shade beneath whatever leaf comes our way, even as we anticipate the talons.

Rreeeaew....! the hawk snarls telling us to drink in the sky, even knowing that hawks soar there. Take joy in rich, productive soil, knowing that a hawk will spill our blood there. Laugh just from the pleasure of looking around, knowing that everywhere hawks outnumber the living. Delight in one moment passing into another, if only because a hawk hasn't yet descended.

And, why are there hawks?

It is because creation requires a hand to fashion it, and our Universe's system is that the hand is in the form of a hawk. It is a hawk that elegantly removes the weak, slow, old, or just unlucky, leaving for the moment others with temporary excellence, to carry on and propagate until they, too, succumb to the hawk.