(Cooper's Hawk - photo by H. Gilbert Miller)
Last week my spouse and I went for a walk down La
Chua Trail, which is part of the Payne's Praririe system in Gainesville,
Florida. As we left the car at the trail
head I asked Meredith if he'd like to take a set of binoculars (I always carry
extra sets for those who don't come without any). He shook his head no. It's not that he's not interested in birds,
but if he really wants to see a bird up close, he can always borrow mine and
not have to bother with anything in his hands and around his neck. It seems to be that he wants to be ready to
interact with nature or with me as we stroll along, and doesn't want anything
to get in the way of his experience.
As we came up to the Gazebo I spotted a Cooper's
Hawk perched on the railing. We were
able to come to about 20 feet of the bird, who seemed more interested in
scanning the grass then in us. She was
so beautiful! It was the closest I have
ever been to a wild bird of prey, other than those brought to the veterinary
clinic because of illness or injury.
I offered the binoculars again to Meredith and again
he declined. Instead he started to
slowly approach the bird while I hung back.
I couldn't believe my eyes as Meredith came within 10 feet, 5 feet, and
it was only at about a distance of 2 feet that the bird show signs of anxiety,
but didn't fly away as Meredith passed the bird on the board walk. It was then my turn to approach the bird, but
I only got one step closer before she flew away.
I wonder now how perhaps binoculars or other field
equipment can get between us a bird, taking away the possibility of a creative
and playful relationship that allows a man to be close enough to feel the soft
breast feathers of a wild predator (or
more likely, to feel the talons or a slap of wings in the face).
I bow down to
the earth's grace that allowed me to see such splendor in man and bird,