Tiny Moments Down By the Prison: On Spotting Hawks With My DaughterSerge Bielanko
In the Honda, on the highway, I crank the doo-wop station on the satellite radio because somehow I feel like one of these days Violet and me will end up bonding really tight over some of that street corner trashcan fire stuff.
I know it’s a long shot, man. But I don’t mind; you throw enough Lonnie & The Cadillacs against the wall and sooner or later some of it sticks.
Outside the car the sky is cold and blue as we head toward the Wal-Mart by cutting across these fields where once upon a time there was nothing but deer and turkeys, but where a maximum security prison now sits solemnly thumped on the top of a hill that seems like it never wants to let the joint fall out of my view.
Violet stares at the winter tree lines and woodlots scattered like tossed cards at poker shootout. And I do too. We are hawk watchers, you see. We are watching for hawks.
I really don’t know exactly why, scientifically speaking, there are so many hawks out on the fringes of this country by-pass that we travel on almost daily, but I do know that they are there and that there are a helluva lot of them.
“Right dare!” Violet blurts out excitedly.
In my rear-view, I take a dead man’s peek and I can see that she is pointing outside to my left; sure enough, there he is: a lanky regal killing machine perched basically on the very tip-top branch of a pine tree.
“Good eye, kiddo!” I tell her, but before I can say anything else I spot another hawk, this one planking on a thermal not even twenty feet off the shoulder maybe 200 yards away. The moment hits me in the gut and I watch him just floating out there without even a single flap of his wings. His head is tucked in hard toward his spread chest and, as we approach him fast, I feel as if he has something in his sights, a mouse or a rabbit or maybe a kitten down there below him that is only a few seconds away from meeting its maker.
Everything happens in an instant, of course, and from the time I first spot him up ahead of us in the wake of Violet’s hawk sighting, maybe three or four seconds of life is all that passes us by; still, I manage to contemplate a thing inside that short stretch of road.
Do I wanna tell Violet that I’ve got a hot hawk busted in my sights?
Or do I want to see if she’ll spot him on her own?
I start to think, “Well, she’s only just turned four, so…
He is hers now.
And oh, I am so proud, buddy.
Out there flying along in our salt-crusted car, clean bulging veins of wiper fluid running down our hood and our doors, the music from some long ago South Philly Friday nights snapping its fingers up in our heads as we both stare intensely at the most wild free thing you could possibly see on a cold winter’s afternoon two miles from the slow burn of theWal-Mart lot.
The image of the wild hawk dangling out of the sky on a string tied to the frozen sun burns into our four eyeballs. Forever, I hope.
And then that’s that. We are by him in flash.
But we are lucky and we both know it.
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