coopers_hawk_F5R7942-02 I had an experience this weekend that was so incredibly powerful, I just had to share.

I was driving home on Saturday morning after picking up some things from thrift stores and estates that I needed, but didn’t want to spend a fortune on.  Stuff like tablecloths and dishes, for a party I am having this coming weekend, and a freezer, because I have wanted one for ages, when I saw something beside the road that caught my eye.

I must confess right now, I have a weakness for road kill.  I got it from my friend, Susanna.  We nearly trampled each other to death once trying to get to a male cardinal in a parking lot before the other one did.  She is smaller than I am, and quicker, so she claimed that particular prize.  I took some feathers from it, and photographed it at every possible angle to have a record of how  the body was structured.  I have learned a lot from things I have picked up from beside the road, from how a feather pattern unfolds, to what a coyote’s fur actually looks like from five inches away.

That morning, I saw a bird, and hoped that it might be a wild turkey, since I am working on smudge feathers for an art show in October.  But the bird looked too small at 65 miles an hour to be a wild turkey, so this rush of thoughts raced through my head…stop, not, don’t stop….then…STOP!!!!!  Instead of turning around and driving back down the freeway, hoping I would find the bird again on my way past and be able to park closer to it, I slammed on my brakes, pulled off the highway shoulder as far as possible, and started the quarter mile trek up the road past an endless stream of cars and trucks.

As I walked up on this bird, I saw that is was, in fact, a small hawk.   It’s wildly illegal to own feathers from birds of prey even if they are road kill, but this little beauty was so pretty, I actually considered it for a moment when something incredible happened…

It blinked.

And then I saw its chest rise and fall.  It blinked again, and my heart fell.  It was creepy, and wonderful, and terribly sad, all at the same time.  I couldn’t imagine walking away from that bird, leaving it there to die on the side of the road, but I had nothing to pick it up with except my bare hands.  And anyway, I had a dog in the car.  What it I picked it up and it bit me?  What if I picked it up and it was covered with blood?  What if I got it back to the truck and it was only stunned?  I could just see myself from the perspective of other drivers, this green truck with a white camper top, weaving uncontrollably up the highway while inside the cab, a pissed off hawk and a hunting dog are going at it  in the front seat while I frantically try to get to the side of the road to open the door and let the damned thing out.  I thought about what it was going to cost me if I took it to a vet and they could save it, then I tried to remember where the closest vet clinic was and how to get there.  I took a deep breath, and wrapped my hands tightly around the wings.  When I picked the bird up, the head didn’t loll to the side, the way they do when a bird’s neck is broken, but it hasn’t died yet.  It blinked again, so I began the long walk back to the truck, holding the bird as far out in front of me as I possibly could, talking to it the entire way in an effort to convince it not to die on me.  A trucker passed going the opposite direction, and I glanced up long enough to see that he was craning his neck trying to see what I was carrying up the highway with my arms straight out in front of me.

I had a box of dishes I’d bought with newspaper in it in the front seat, and a Pharaoh Hound in the backseat, so I nestled the bird in the newspaper and hoped to God it didn’t suddenly spring to its feet.  Or die on  me.  I pulled off the exit I was parked next to, and got back on the freeway headed for the vet clinic I take my dogs to.   The hawk didn’t move, but I could tell it was still breathing, and when I got to the vet clinic a few minutes later, I took it into the reception area in the box of dishes it was in and set it on the counter.  A lady waiting with her dog said she’d seen me beside the road, and wondered what I was doing, and the two women behind the counter immediately offered to euthanize it.  But when they got it into the back room, it stood up in the box, which presented a whole new set of problems.

The government has strict rules about handling wildlife of any kind, and since no one at the clinic was a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, they called another clinic and asked if their wildlife rehabilitator was in. Fortunately, she was, but then I was told, I had to be the one to take the bird to her since the only thing these women were allowed to do was tape the box up with the hawk in it.  The box had handles so I wasn’t afraid it couldn’t breathe.  I was afraid it was still going to die on me, but I picked up the box, dishes and all and carried it back out to the truck.

The receptionist at the second clinic took the bird and the box in the back, and asked me to fill out some paperwork asking where I got it.  I waited for the vet to examine it, but the prognosis was not good.  I was told that it had suffered some head trauma, and damage to one eye, and also, that it started hemorrhaging.  I left the clinic certain the hawk had died, or was going to, and spent the rest of the day thinking about that moment when it blinked.  I can’t quite explain the feeling I had when I first picked it up, or how fragile it looked laying in the box of newspaper on top of a set of dishes, or the sudden sense I had that something truly powerful and life changing had happened.  I was flooded with the feeling that I had just invested in the best possible karma I have ever experienced in my life  up to this point, and even though it may be overstating the case, it felt absolutely incredible to know that I held a wild hawk in my hands, that I didn’t let it die alone beside the road, that, for one brief moment, I connected with something much greater than myself.

And then I called the vet clinic this morning to find out what happened with it.  I was expecting to be told that the hawk had died, or been euthanized, but instead, I was informed that after the vet examined it, they were able to release it Sunday morning, and it flew away without incident.   It was an incredible way to start my Monday, and definitely an experience worth sharing.