21 August 2006

The hawk incident

We had a frightening experience during our recent California vacation. In the car on the way to the open space park, I was mentally totting up how perfect it all was -- we were seeing friends, swimming, playing tennis, and now going blackberry picking in Marin County with some of our dearest people. I was beaming with joy at all of it, and at my beautiful goddaughter and her mother's idea that we go to pick fresh fruit.
After we parked, I stood in the warm sunshine with my six-year-old daughter and watched her clean hair shining in the sun.

A pair of hawks circling overhead caught my eye.

"Look! Hawks!"

And together we saw them circling the August-gold hilltops of Marin that are dotted with Live Oak and speckled no doubt in the raptors' view with songbirds and snakes and mice and the like. But then they circled nearer to us.

And I kept my eyes on them, because my daughter is my daughter and she weighs but 35 pounds, and because I am her mother. And they kept not going away, not continuing on their rounds, but staying near. Circling closer. They were big and powerful birds, hunting in a pair, which we'd seen at a park falconry demonstration in Arizona last winter. And suddenly I was deeply afraid of them. "Those birds are just little dinosaurs. Raptors are predators. That's their job. My kid is small. And this is all happening so fast." I caught a mental glimpse of a bird on my child and just said No. Terrified to the core at this point, sure they were zeroing in on us any second, with my tender-on-the-outside daughter just standing there shining in the sun, I told my little one, "We have to go to the car right now!" and snatched her up and dashed for the shelter of the car. We even rolled up the windows, because the hawks stayed around for a little while longer.

It was eerie; I felt as if the fear I felt and admitted had turned me into a bullseye for them and all my instinct told me was to get my child under cover as fast as I could. And I didn't think twice but just did it. Scared the bejeesus out of her, too, poor thing. But I keep talking about it with her as something good to remember. We live in a world with bears, mountain lions, dogs, birds, and all sorts of wild animals who are just doing their jobs and looking for food. We have to remember we're not always at the very top of the food chain. And when confronted with animals, we need to trust our instincts.

Our blackberry-picking friends who accompanied us on this outing had no idea what was going on, and maybe thought me paranoid. But I have no regrets. We're here, intact.


And twenty or so minutes later we felt safe enough to come out. But it was truly frightening

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