06 March 2014

Hawk Don't Eat Squash

Field notes, March 5th, 2014. Driving home, meditating on the belly.

It was astonishing, that flash of rusty red. All the more so at sixty-five miles an hour. I was privileged to see a hawk fulfilling its hawk-ness. I suppose it was good that it was feathers not blood. Pity that the prey had no chance to object. If not for the glass and road noise I suspect I may have heard it cry out at the fatal moment.

I was just outside a small town called Lone Jack, on my way back from a photo excursion in cow country. Quite a coincidence that I turned my head to the side, looking at the driver's side mirror as I hustled down Highway 50. It was at that moment the hawk decide to strike at some small, gray, furry things in the median. I still have no idea what the hapless prey was, but it looked vaguely like a rabbit or a rat.

The shock made me gasp. It is not that I had no idea that animals prey on other animals, it is that I was not expecting to see it on a major roadway. Especially not so close to my car. The attack happened fast, almost in the blink of an eye. There was also the awe of having witnessed something sublime. It was a peek into the workings of the world. A truth acknowledged, perhaps, or the revelation of a mystery.

I would think back to the symmetry of that incident, the relationship of eater to eaten, as I puttered in the kitchen while preparing my own dinner. Mine was nothing so dramatic as pouncing on something creature who had no idea I was coming. No, mine was less intense, involving the roasting of a spaghetti squash, the pureeing of tomatoes. If there was any drama it was in the cutting of onions and mincing garlic with parsley; there was speed and precision involved and I am pushing myself to become more professional with my knife skills.

The closest I came to emulating the hawk was to open two cans of oil-packed tuna, which I added to then marinara I was making. Certainly no talons flashing, beak parted in anticipation of a killing stroke. There was a momentary sense of dislocation, though, as I meditated on the notions of what we do to feed ourselves, to survive. It was weird.

As I shredded the squash with a fork, prior to anointing with sauce, I was struck again by the mysteries of food and eating in this life. Spaghetti squash fascinates me, watching it transform from this hard blocky thing I strained to cut, into long twirly strands that eat like noodles. Earlier, I had marveled at the fibrous net inside the squash that held the seeds. While fishing the seeds out, I felt wonder that such a thing could just grow. The seeds, too, I would later season and roast for a snack.

I know it was child-like of me, maybe even slightly naive, to be so amazed at the mysteries right in front of me. I know much can be explained by basic biology and chemistry and technical investigation. But at the moment I saw the hawk strike and the squash strands part, I was filled with the warmth of belonging, of being inside the world rather than apart from it. The hawk doesn't eat squash, and I don't prey on hawks, but for some few moments, we shared a mystery that has little to do with explanation and everything to do with simply being.


  1. The rarity of seeing such a moment of predator and prey, to see the feasting upon the kill, is brutal poetry, but also quite precious in the fact it was actually witnessed...

  2. Living in a near-wilderness, hawks are part of my space...or more accurately, I am part of theirs. For me, it's that haunting cry as they swoop out of the sky for their prey that always gets me. I often think I'm very glad not to be on the receiving end of that sound.

    1. Being on the receiving end…is an experience I'd rather leave to imagination :)

  3. I have witnessed a hawk capture its prey along a roadside as well! It stunned me! One time I was on the highway and I caught movement off to the passenger side of my van. I glanced over to see a red-tailed hawk flying alongside!!! He did so for a few seconds and then tried to take my decor of a hot dog off my radio antennae! After I got over the surprise it made me laugh.


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