Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Predator in the City

A while ago my dear friend Daniel and I took a trip up to Boston. Just as we arrived, New England decided to put on its one hot day for the entire season so far. It was sweltering, and somehow Boston with all its cobblestone and clapboard charm just seemed surreal. Late in the afternoon the first cool breaths of wind began pushing menacing storm clouds the city's way. We revived ourselves with cold white wine and had a stroll through the Boston Commons, which was now suddenly bursting with people out enjoying the promise of a cool change. It was the usual parade of people walking dogs, young couples canoodling, university students poring over books, kids eating ice-creams -- then I noticed a flash of feathers and the unmistakable swooping motion of what had to be a raptor. Right there in the middle of the city, a Red-tailed Hawk had snatched a pigeon out of midair, in one swipe of the talons.

The pigeon didn't even have a moment to register that it wasn't a pigeon anymore. We rushed over to the tree the hawk had landed on, and in a second we saw the pigeon's soft gray feathers start to drift down, as though someone had ripped open a down pillow.

And as we looked up at her devouring dinner, people began to look at us. They looked at us looking up, and then they looked up, until soon the hawk had an audience underneath that tree. An old African American guy, a couple pushing their baby in a pram, a young couple, and still more people gathered -- everyone transfixed and smiling, a little exhilarated by this reminder that even in the city we're living in nature, with all its fabulous gory drama.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


In our relationships with other people and the choices we make in how to live our lives, are we looking for a lot of the same things as birds are in the springtime, when they're busily collecting dry grass and twigs and interesting leaves, carefully carrying them back to their nesting places in their beaks? Strip away the layers of our human desires and complex cravings and neuroses, and it seems that like birds, underneath it all often what we are seeking is a simple nest. A comforting, sustaining one that holds us and protects us, anchors us -- but all important, allows us the liberty to fly away, explore on our own, stand on a twig and sing our own tune. A nest that offers us freedom, yet that we feel right down in our bones will be there for us when we need to return.