I was returning from a walk with my dog and along the way, I noticed a crowd on the other side of the street. Many smartphones were visible, and it became apparent to me that something was going on on the sidewalk that was being filmed. From across the street, it was hard to tell what that was. At a distance from the crowd, a flock of pigeons descended to eat rice thrown on the sidewalk. From where I was, I saw what appeared to be a wild animal in distress, surrounded by curious onlookers. It seemed to me quite callous that the crowd was doing nothing to relieve the animal’s distress, but instead filming it for its apparent novelty value. I hurried across the street with my dog to see what I could do to help the animal.
In the middle of the sidewalk was a hawk, unmoving, its legs apparently stuck on a blackish block beneath. Was this someone’s idea of sport, I wondered. Then the block moved – it wasn’t a block, but a pigeon that the hawk was holding in its talons. The pigeon was still alive and struggling to escape, but the hawk kept it down. I was struck by the beauty of nature on its own. As people drew closer to film this, the hawk, holding on to the pigeon, flew up just enough to clear and land on the other side of a fence bordering the sidewalk. The crowd closed in on the fence to look at the spectacle. I stayed where I was because I did not want to violate the hawk’s space. I noticed my ego giving itself a pat on the back for my apparent compassion: unlike the others there, I’m respecting the hawk’s space. Perhaps the more respectful thing to do would be to leave so that there was one less person interrupting the hawk from completing what it needed to do with the pigeon.
The hawk looked alarmed and on alert. It appeared to be torn between trying to restrain the still alive pigeon and guarding its prey from the curious, but perhaps, from its perspective, threatening crowd. A teenager called to her boyfriend to come watch because the hawk was killing the poor bird. Further up on the sidewalk, the flock of pigeons seemed undisturbed from the events here and continued with their periodic descent and ascent, as they followed a man anointing the ground with rice. The pigeon in the hawk’s grasp struggled again, causing the hawk to adjust its balance and turn around. That was my cue to leave. The longer the crowd is here, including me, the longer the hawk will be guarding its prey instead of tearing its flesh and putting an end to the struggle. I realized that a scene such as this is fascinating because, much like the other gawkers and observers in the crowd, I too, am a creature of the city. Maybe if I lived in the country, nature in its undistilled form would not be so shockingly beautiful in a compelling way, and instead beautiful without the allure of novelty. I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t know what happened to the hawk or the pigeon.
On my way home with my dog and my thoughts, I was reminded of an incident a few years ago, when my dog caught a squirrel and proceeded to shake it vigorously in her mouth, but interrupted by my shouts to stop, relented for a few seconds to look up, just long enough for the shocked but still alive squirrel to jump out of her mouth and run up the nearest tree. I don’t know what happened to that squirrel, but my dog was very confused by what I did.
© 2013 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.