February 7, 2017 by Ray Yanek
Once upon a time I was visiting the Chicago suburb of Naperville with my family. Naperville is wonderful– consistently voted as a top place to raise a family, has a charming downtown, is home to North Central College, and there is a thriving art scene and fantastic book stores.
We were walking from the parking garage towards the intersection that would lead into that downtown area. As we approached, we realized something was wrong. Crowds of people huddled together, hands over mouths. Little kids screamed. Yuppies fainted. Hipsters wailed and pulled their beards in consternation.
Someone pointed to the light post overhanging the intersection. I followed that finger to find a hawk perched on the pole, completely eviscerating this poor fucking squirrel.
It was a mess.
Except for the Naperville psychiatrists, who I’m sure put in many a custom order for BMW’s that day.
I relate this story because, with the exception of that one time in Naperville (and maybe that one other time with the Falcons in Houston), I’ve always found birds of prey immaculately beautiful. Regal. Austere. Sophisticated.
In the empty fields around my town, they perch on fence posts, or high telephone poles, wings back, head high, ever vigilant and scanning the lonely fields. They float sometimes on the thermals with such ease and grace.
I relate this story because not far from my town is Starved Rock State Park. According to legend, settlers drove local Indians to the top of this cliff and then surrounded the base forcing the Indians into starve. Bastards. Anyway, Starved Rock runs along the Illinois River and bald eagles come to rest there in the winter. Some friends of mine went last weekend to see them.
I would love to see these eagles. I can imagine how stunning they must be.
But I never have. Not sure why. Maybe because of the crowds they bring in.
Maybe I would rather just go to the country alone and watch my hawks stand their vigils.
Or maybe I could just stay home in my chair, read Tennyson, and still witness the majestic spirit and image of the eagle:
–Alfred, Lord Tennyson
He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ringed with the azure world, he stands.
The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.