Saturday, October 1, 2011

“‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers— That perches in the soul—”

Emily Dickinson said that.
And although I suspect she was envisioning a smaller, cuter, much more finch-like feathered denizen, my soul shelters a red-tailed hawk.
Nancy Nehring/Photodisc/Getty Images

There is a red-tail resident in the park where I walk the dogs, and I have been so fortunate as to get quite close to her a couple of times. She has no fear of humans. In fact I suspect her thoughts on our first meeting, while I was memorizing her size and markings so I could go home and look her up in Peterson’s Field Guide, tended more toward working out whether I was tasty enough to be worth the effort of attacking me.
Every time I see a hawk, it adds to my fund of hope.
When I was a kid, I thought I would live to see the extinction of all raptors.  The DDT that was so widely used at the time had entered their food chain and interfered with their ability to reproduce by making the shells of their eggs so soft that the females smashed them when they tried to incubate them. Folks who paid attention to such things thought raptors would be extinct in their lifetime. They thought that anything that could be done would be too little, too late.
I’m not going to go all Pollyanna New Age here, and start talking about how we can be the change we want to see and invoking pie in the sky peaceable kingdoms and lions lying down with Lamborghinis. I was born and raised in the intermountain West, and I am constitutionally a realist tempered with a dash of cynic. We humans tend to do as much harm as we do good. As a tribe, we are reactive, not proactive. A lot of what we do when we finally build enough consensus to react, is too little and too late.
And yet. And yet.
There are still raptors in our world. And the value of that is above rubies.

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