Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Cooper's Hawk

It was cold and crisp this morning, and I was looking for a little magic to begin the day, when my wife spotted this Cooper's hawk on one of the high limbs of a tree behind our house.  I've seen him in our neighborhood before, but he has never allowed me to get very close.  Today, however, was different. He seemed to enjoy my company as much as I did his.  On the other hand, he was probably thinking more like a hawk in search of food than a man in search of companionship.  As the poet Ted Hughes reminds us in the poem below, one cannot really understand a hawk unless you see the world from the hawk's vantage point.  Unlike humans, the hawk has no "falsifying dream."  There is "no sophistry" in its body, and the path of its flight is always "direct."

                                         HAWK ROOSTING
                                            by Ted Hughes

                        I sit in the top of the wood, my eyes closed.
                        Inaction, no falsifying dream
                        Between my hooked head and hooked feet:
                        Or in sleep rehearse perfect kills and eat.

                        The convenience of the high trees!
                        The air's bouyancy and the sun's ray
                        Are  of advantage to me;
                        And the earth's face upward for my inspection.

                        My feet are locked upon the rough bark.
                        It took the whole of creation
                        To produce my foot, my each feather:
                        Now I hold Creation in my foot

                        Or fly up, and revolve it all slowly -
                        I kill where I please because it is all mine.
                        There is no sophistry in my body:
                        My manners are tearing off heads -

                        The allotment of death.
                        For the one path of my flight is direct
                        Through the bones of the living.
                        No arguments assert my right:

                        The sun is behind me.
                        Nothing has changed since I began.
                        My eye has permitted no change.
                        I am going to keep things like this.


  1. No unfulfilled dreams for a Hawk! We have a tiny dog (maybe 6 pounds) and I am constant alert as we have a few that live in our woods. I have not had the luck of a photograph like the one you captured... it is magnificent!

  2. You're right, MARGARET! No "falsifying dream," no unfulfilled dream. And, yes, I would be careful with the dog. Magnificent as they are, hawks don't share our sentiments about "man's best friend."

  3. It is a majestic and yes magnificent portrait of the Cooper's Hawk, George. He really does seem to be in control and all business, as the poem suggests.

  4. Thanks, RUTH. The more I read this poem, the more interesting I found it—the hawk's singularity of focus and purpose, the simplicity of its life work, the lack of sentimentality, the reminder that we humans will never quite understand the harshness of being the hunter, the hunted, or both hunter and hunted.

  5. And I thought we were cool 'cause we had a woodpecker.

  6. Woodpeckers are cool, DOMINIC, and, of course, you are too!

  7. What a wonderful photo, better by far than any Cooper's shot I've yet achieved. And that Hughes poem, as his stuff so often is, deceptively dense and telling, the unvarnished recognition that life is entitled and achieved only from death, the unwillingness to dodge and falsify truth…the dispassionate attestation that genuine freedom resides within their linear connection.

  8. Thanks so much for your comments, GRIZZ. I agree with everything you say about the Hughes poem. I read the poem four or five times before the posting, and some new insight seemed to pop up with each new reading. I love this unflinching, unsentimental, and truthful view of the nature of life as seen through the eyes of both Hughes and his subject.

  9. Stunning photo of the hawk, George.

    (Sorry I haven't been commenting quite so much of late — haven't commented much anywhere, really, for one reason or another. Just the way of things. I have, however, been reading and enjoying your recent welcome flurry of posts.)

  10. Marvelous photo of a beautiful hawk. -- barbara

  11. Thanks, ROBERT, and rest assured that I'm not the least bit concerned about the frequency of your comments. When, where, and how often to post or comment is an individual decision for everyone, and as you know, my own activity tends to ebb and flow, depending upon the demands of my life and where my head is at any particular moment. I support whatever you're doing, my friend, and wish you the very best.

  12. Thanks, BARBARA. Glad you liked the photo of my morning visitor.

  13. What a beautiful photo of the hawk, you are lucky to have seen him so clearly.

  14. Thanks, ROWAN. On this extremely cold winter morning, the hawk seemed to be mesmerized by the morning sun. He possessed a stillness than one could only envy.

  15. Thanks, CAIT for the comment. Sometimes we get lucky.