sharp shinned hawk
Sunday afternoon I was reading when a flash caught my eye's attention at one window to my right, a bird larger than usual flying by the window with white underside. I saw it in the next window land on top of the bird feeder for a look around. Its back was gun-metal blue up the back of the neck and top of head, orange cheeks and a black line above the eye. It's colors were vivid. I sat without moving. I knew it could see me through the glass if I moved. I stayed still and watched. The colors in the bird above are not nearly as vibrant as the bird that stopped by here. Possibly it was a young bird or maybe they come in degrees of brightness. Anyway, the bird stood on the birdfeeder roof looking around. All the birds were gone and out of sight. It was a sparrow hawk that evidently had been watching the activity around the birdfeeder and made a dry run. I've seen a bigger red-shouldered hawk land in front of the window I'm facing. The colors in its feathers were alive with an inner light. It stood on the ground looking around. It looked in the window. I wasn't moving. Our eyes met and the bird flew away. What a show it was to see it lift off. Unfold the wings up high, one downward thrust and the feet lift off the ground, the next thrust it's flying.
I confess to feeling awe at such moments seeing one of the beings on the earth that is threatened to extinction by human arrogance living its life as if it didn't matter. I enjoy seeing the chickadees, nuthatches, titmice, snowbirds, a pair of cardinals, one woodpecker. I also like to feed them to keep them out of the Christmas tree patches where the bugs are poisoned. The two young squirrels that took up here have nested in the attic. The chipmunks have gone into hibernation behind a rock wall. The squirrels' bellies are rounding out nicely, beginning to favor Paula Dean around the middle. They're storing up for winter, fattening themselves and putting away supplies. I'm glad to have them here. I'll feed them and let them have a good place out of the weather. I like watching them, seeing them go about their everyday lives, picking up sunflower seeds the giant that lives in the house offers for all the neighbors around here putting by for winter; the chipmunks, squirrels, possums, raccoons. Now I'm attracting hawks as well. I'll have an entire eco system out my windows. Spiders in the window corners make it just right.
I go for a walk in the woods and maybe see a chickadee once, hear some crows, maybe see a pileated woodpecker fly by. I stay at home and the birds come to me. I go walking and they fly away. I step out the door and they explode into the air from the ground around the feeders. The chickadees don't go far. They make their clicking sound at me. They watch me take the seed to the feeders in the mornings and sometimes in the afternoon. They know it is the giant living in the house feeding them. They fly less far away now than they used to. When I walk to the car, the chickadees watch me from the branches using their clicking voice. I noticed when I was looking after Jr, feeding the crows apple slices every day off the front porch and throwing them leftovers out the back door, we had relationship going. They knew I was giving them the food. They were grateful and became my friends, in spirit. They stayed out of neighbor Harry's garden. I'd be happy to have a similar relationship here with the birds of nearby territories. I don't want to tame them. Dogs like you when you give them food they like. Cats do, horses do, pigs do, every animal I know of has an affection for the human feeding it. A gratitude kind of affection.
There was a time I felt like the chickadees especially were scolding me every time I went out the door for scaring them. That didn't seem to be part of the spirit of the encounters. I listened more closely and it sounded like they were saying hi to me in bird language, thanks for the goodies. A dog that is afraid of people and won't come near, will stand at its safe distance when it sees the human feeding it and wag its tail. Birds are not unconscious. In the early part of my life I had birds. I like birds. I like having chickens. Can't have chickens now with neighbors that hate roosters, dogs and a road that is now a race track. A man named J. Allen Boone wrote a book some years ago, Kinship With All Life. He tells of his experiments communicating with flies and garden gophers. When I see a mud-dauber or a wasp flying around in the upper part of a window where the bottom half is open, I've learned I can help one find the opening by slowly telling it to fly a bit lower, a bit lower and lower until it finds the opening and flies away. I stop and stand still so it won't read me as a threat.
Dimestores sold parakeets when I was a kid. The time I went to buy one, the girl working there didn't know what to do with the birds. I said I'd get the bird. I opened the cage, put my hand in, went to the bird I wanted, picked it up and put it in the little take-home cage. My grandmother taught me about birds, handling them, catching them, not hurting them, befriending them. I've an idea it won't be long before more and more people are having chickens again and making a garden. We're going into hard times and it's looking like free food will be the first thing to come back. Growing one's own. Between the time about everybody gave up gardening and the next time we'll need to be knowing how to work a garden, scientific study has revealed the way to more conscious gardening, like not depleting the soil and growing the most in the least space. I don't like to think about the future. It is totally unpredictable. So many trillion or gazillion variables all going at the same time. We can make educated guesses going by patterns of behavior in the past, which sometimes bear out pretty close, but never exact unless by the same chance as any other outcome.
And, strangely, the past is every bit as nebulous as the future. The only thing I could say of the past to bring it within imagination reach of what we might call "reality" would be memory. Take Alleghany County, for example. No history has been written of the county. The farthest back present county history goes is as far back as the oldest living person remembers. The historical society has been so alone for so long in a community that cares next to nothing about its past, it's almost been like a secret society just by the way it worked out. Now they have their museum space and Roy Hunt to do research and make decisions. They're fired up by the chance to get some projects done and show the community remnants of its past. I've found from reading history that it's largely information without soul, without life. While it's happening is when it lives. Later, it's just a memory by whatever means, newspaper article, video, mind. I have found my memory so very faulty over the last several years, I don't put any store in my memory any more. In my case, it's like dreams, George Washington crossing the Delaware, it cold and miserable. There is George Washington feeling it and there is me reading about it. Hardly the same.