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Midday Matinee – Hawks and Squirrels

February 26, 2012

Midday Matinee

Midday Matinee – Hawks and Squirrels

Midday Matinee is our people watching, people doing and people being feature. Join the Woodland Creatures for an afternoon break.

For weeks now I’ve been watching a squirrel at the local carwash. He seemed to have found himself a nice place to nest right under the roof overhang. He was huge, fat and sassy, and it was so much fun to watch him scamper up and down a vertical wall as if it were horizontal. He often poked his head out to catch some sun and view the world. In an instant he could go from quick scampering to absolute stillness. I began to think of him as My Squirrel.

I enjoyed him. I wondered if he had babies. I wondered if the noise of the auto wash ever troubled him, although I guessed it couldn’t have or he wouldn’t have been living there. I thought he was quite bright, adapting in such a successful way to an urban environment.

Yesterday I was sitting in the car, facing the carwash (it’s next to the coffee shop, and my son wanted some tea). The trees are now bony fingers concealing nothing.

I saw a red tailed hawk in one of the nearby trees and pointed it out to my son. It was sitting there as if the chilly day was failing to provide thermals for easy flight. But I guess that hawk knew something.

The squirrel popped his head out from beneath the roof. I said, “Oh, man, I hope the hawk doesn’t see him.”

But of course the hawk did. The squirrel edged out farther, looking in the wrong direction. I saw the moment when the hawk spied him. It was amazing to behold, and he reminded me of my cats when they prepare to pounce on a toy.

His head poked forward, twitching a bit, and he crouched down until he was low to the branch. He started moving from one foot to another.

I had just enough time to say, “Oh, no!”

Amazingly fast, the hawk flew from the tree and caught the squirrel. It took me longer to type than it took to happen.

Mercifully, the hawk carried his kill under some bushes, because I really didn’t want to watch.

I felt sad, but not too sad, because I understand the hawk needs to eat. But it wasn’t like watching a nature documentary. No voice-over was needed to tell me how amazingly talented that hawk’s hunting had been. And certainly no voice-over was needed to remind me of why I had just lost My Squirrel. Nature’s way.

But inevitably another thought crossed my mind. That may be nature’s way, but we humans have the ability to be different.

So why in the world does the GOP seem to want us to live like hawks and squirrels?

Reader Comments Welcome.

  • http://bpicampus.com The BPI Squirrel

    Now I need macadamias. Poor lil guy.

    • winterbanyan

      I’m so sorry, Squirrel. I’m sending you an armload of macadamias.

  • NCrissieB

    Uh oh. Now the Squirrel is humming a country song. Or at least it sounds like a country song. The chorus is something like “The carwash ain’t the same now without youuuuu.”

    I’m being silly because it is, indeed, a sad story. I don’t know why we bond to wild animals that we see often. But we do come to think we know them, and think of them as ‘ours’ in a relational rather than possessive way. So of course it’s sad when they die.

    And I agree … that may be the way of nature, but it needn’t be the way of humankind. Indeed that not being the way of humankind is exactly what “civilization” is supposed to mean….

    • winterbanyan

      It is a sad story. I really felt awful about it, even understanding why it is so.

      However, I will say one thing about that hawk that we could learn from. He takes only what he needs from the environment. He didn’t kill the squirrel just to prove that he could.

      And if there are leavings… well, I saw some smaller birds waiting for their turn.

  • addisnana

    How sad for you to watch this scene, winter. When people wax romantic about the harmony of nature, I often wonder if they have ever seen anything like what you witnessed.

    As for humans being civilized, a lot of times we are and then some of us revert to our animal natures and all bets are off.

    • winterbanyan

      Nature really isn’t romantic. Yes it can be beautiful, but it can also be very ugly. What I saw was both, but neither was “romantic.”

      It is a world where brutality is necessary to survive. But I keep coming back to the hawk. He killed because he needed to eat, but he didn’t hover protectively over his food after he was done. He flew away and others ate.

      No greed, just subsistence. That, to my way of thinking, is the lesson we could take from nature. If we don’t need it, let others who do have it.