I’m not at all shy about admitting that my heart is lifted by the very thought of birds of all kinds. When we lived in Atlanta, where I was the Chicago Tribune’s southern correspondent, I used to delight in visiting the Chattahoochee Nature Preserve near Roswell to see what had been rescued and what was thriving after humane treatment. One Saturday I took my wife and my sons to visit an eagle who had been saved after it was blinded by shotgun fire. It was a magnificent animal and, with its sight gone, was strangely calm around people. You could stand beside it in its cage and it would not fly away or race for safety. It was just there as a testament to its own magnificent presence. I never thought I would ever get that close to such a beautiful animal.
So I was taking my dog Lulu for a walk in Evanston last night and on the curb along Asbury just south of Ashland was the cadaver of a Cooper’s Hawk. I am afraid it’s the same one my wife and I have been calling “Cooper” every time it showed up near the house. My guess is that it was picking at something dead on the street and a car hit it. What a sad thing. To have a hawk visit is a delight, mostly because they are so lovely but also because you never quite know what they are going to do. I have seen them sitting in trees munching on squirrel remains as though it were just the most natural thing in the world, which I would suggest it is. It’s lovely to have a day begin with a notice from my wife that Cooper’s in the yard and looking around.
I have watched them in the schoolyard across the street, too. I once saw one chase a squirrel down the sidewalk and then into a bush, then around the bush and then up a tree and down and up the street again. I don’t know how that one ended but the squirrel was holding its own. It was wonderful to watch, a reminder that there is a nature despite all the noise, all the “issues” and such that occupy so much of our space. In one of my most memorable moments, I saw one chasing an owl down the alley when I was walking my last fine dog, Rip. Here’s what flew over my head: An Owl, A Cooper’s Hawk, a dozen screaming crows. What a fine event, like being in some kind of children’s story.
I have seen some unpleasant things in my life, violent deaths, the injuries of warfare, fire victims, people chopped up. So it’s not that I am meek about these things. But there is something about that dead hawk that I simply can’t get out of my head. I think it was the casual way someone just left it on the curb like that, like it didn’t matter, like it was just another dead bird. It was the death of one of nature’s great predators. Not a small thing at all.
So I did the only thing I could do. I picked it up by its clawed feet and hauled it home and put it in storage until I can bury it. As Christmas approaches, try to remember that God made everything around us and that it takes so little effort to pick up a dead hawk and bury it, it would seem like a sin to let the moment pass. Somebody killed it, I know, because they thought of it as an evil predator. But I think the only evil predator in that story was a human. RIP Cooper. I hope a relative shows up soon.