by Laura Parker Roerden
Small things sometimes call us home, like the two birds I saw
circling the hay field this morning on my way back from
farm chores. Their shrill vibrating whistle, a half warning, half invitation
stunned me awake from a deep dream—even though
I should have been sufficiently awake from an hour of shoveling
manure. Why would two seagulls have come so far inland? I wondered,
as I mentally calculate whether the recent hurricane
or an errant trash heap had thrown the birds off course.
Then I saw the unmistakable thick body and spiraling flight of
predators: a grey morning sky backlit like a metallic robe
about to hit the ground in full favor of nakedness, no pretense.
The birds were not seagulls, but red-tailed hawks.
I hadn’t noticed that our free-range hens were already
scattered outside like balls on a pool table hit particularly well
by a skilled opening break. The roosters were on high alert and
had surrounded the hens, several of which were on a
chaotic sprint towards the low lying platform my father had built
as a roost, but we now used for a refuge and cover outside
for moments just like this, for times when hawks were double-
or triple-teaming the hens. The hawks have lost interest
in the hens, for now. But suddenly the hayfield has come alive,
shaking in the wind with vulnerability. A small toad or mole: now the sole subject
of the hawks’intention. I start to draw closer, but my boots on the newly paved road
are too loud. The trite intrusion draws my attention to a small rivulet of
water from last night’s rain along the side and I think just how insufficient
a surface asphalt is, as rain can no longer follow a true path to the sea
and how so often our way is bridled by obstacles of our own making. The sun,
still hidden beneath a grey cloud cover, shimmers as if stretched
across our skies in shredded ribbons. So I take off my
muck boots and wait, while the heavy strain against the birds’ wings
appears to hold them aloft and the hawks soar ever freer
in the stark fact that existence is connected to these moments.
Laura Parker Roerden is the founding director of Ocean Matters and the former managing editor of Educators for Social Responsibility and New Designs for Youth Development. She serves on the boards of Women Working for Oceans (W20) and Earth, Ltd. and is a member of the Pleiades Network of Women.