A few weeks ago I wrote about a mockingbird that had taken up residence in my backyard and that I had adopted as a totem animal. He was eaten by a hawk yesterday.
All in all, the equinox sucked. It was overcast and chilly; I spilled an entire cup of coffee in my lap - while driving - twice. My to-go cup rolled around on the floorboard as I negotiated Wisconsin Avenue. A bad day. When I got home, I went out back to add food to the feeder and that's when I found the mass of feathers. The tail feathers were black and white, the soft pinfeathers gray. Unmistakable. I crouched to examine the scene. Some of the down was still wet and gooey. It was easy to picture what happened: Mockingbird sailed out over the yard in his way, conspicuous in flight, and landed on the honeysuckle thicket to lord it over the chattering house sparrows. A swoop and a struggle. You could see on the ground where he was pinned. From there, it looked like the hawk just picked him apart.
It happens. Hawks have to eat too. I know how these things go. What can you say about it? I know that some people attach no feeling to the plight of wild animals in situations like this and that is for the best. Wisdom accepts cruelty, but in this case, I have lost my wisdom. I keep feeling Mockingbird's terror as he was overcome, keep feeling his pain as, trapped beneath talons, the hawk's bill tore out his feathers. Fear is instinctual, even in humans. It isn't that hard to put myself in Mockingbird's place.
I worry whether I will have a mockingbird singing in my yard this spring. Maybe another will move in and claim the territory, singing night and day in that distinctive jumbled, schizophrenic way. I don't know.
I do know that as I crouched over that mass of bloody feathers, something went off in my head, in my heart. If I had seen a hawk soaring at that moment, I would have shot it through the wing and pleasured as it panicked, screeching and wheeling in the sky, unable to understand its sudden pain and its precipitous fall. I would have watched it collapse onto the earth and stood over its broken body as it lay there struggling.
That way the whole bloody transaction would have been rendered meaningless. There would have been no profit for any living thing. For Mockingbird, I would become an agent of nihilism.
Of course, that all passed.
I kept three of the tailfeathers for myself. Brave bird.