Monday, July 31, 2006

Hawks on display

HURT HAWKS by Robinson Jeffers
"The broken pillar of the wing jags from the clotted shoulder,
The wing trails like a banner in defeat,
No more to use the sky forever but live with famine
And pain a few days: cat nor coyote
Will shorten the week of waiting for death, there is game without talons.
He stands under the oak-bush and waits
The lame feet of salvation; at night he remembers freedom
And flies in a dream, the dawn ruins it.
He is strong and pain is worse to the strong, incapacity is worse.
The curs of the day come and torment him
At distance, no one but death the redeemer will humble that head,
The intrepid readiness, the terrible eyes.
The wild God of the world is sometimes merciful to those
That ask mercy, not often to the arrogant.
You do not know him, you communal people, or you
have forgotten him;
Intemperate and savage, the hawk remembers him;
Beautiful and wild, the hawks, and men that are dying remember him.
I'd sooner , except the penalties, kill a man than a hawk; but the great redtail
Had nothing left but unable misery
From the bone too shattered for mending, the wing that trailed under his talons when he moved.
We had fed him six weeks, I gave him freedom,
He wandered over the foreland hill and returned in the evening, asking for death,
Not like a beggar, still eyed with the old
Implaccable arrogance. I gave him the lead gift in the twilight. What fell was relaxed,
Owl-downy, soft feminine feathers; but what
Soared: the fierce rush: the night-herons by the flooded river cried fear at its rising
Before it was quite unsheathed from reality."

This is the only poem I know by Robinson Jeffers, but it has troubled me since I first read it. I sense the author's great respect for the hawk and understand how that respect led him to give it *freedom* as he did, but don't know that others would appreciate why it was the proper thing to do. Proper isn't the right word for it, maybe truthful or honest would be a better word. Truthful to the nature of the hawk and all birds of prey. I might even extend that to all predators in similar circumstances.

I feel a deep sense of reverence for birds of prey. For wild birds of prey. For those that are captive, like the Bald Eagle above, I feel pity. Something so great as an eagle, an owl, a Harris' hawk, or even a little kestral is diminished by being held captive. That is a given, I'd guess. Captivity has its' merits, but I question whether what is in the bird's best interest isn't sometimes lost in the name of *education*.

These birds were on display last week at the county fair. Very popular show; this guy brings his act there most years. Usually I stay away because it bothers me so. This year I waited out a thunderstorm in his tent and took some pics and tried to decide if I was just being overly critical. After mulling it over for a few days while Blogger decided if it would let me make this post with pictures (it won't) - I've decided that this guy and his *show* aren't doing right by the birds. The general public loves being able to get so close - within arms reach- and the opportunity (for a few $$$) to be photographed *holding* one of these birds is a big draw. But to anyone who knows anything about them, or who respects them and can recognize the signs of their stress; it is something very far from worthy. Their was no respect or reverence here. Very little in the way of education - all show, no substance.

There are organizations that do this right. I volunteer for one of the best and know its educators to be fierce protectors of the birds in their care. That is how is ought to be.

Note: I apologize for the links to pics on Photobucket, but Blogger just won't load these.


Susan Gets Native said...

You KNOW that I had to comment on this one.
That guy should be stopped. Birds of prey (and all birds for that matter) are easily stressed, and having all these strange people holding them (people who don't know what they are doing) is so not in the bird's interest, and not the people's interest, either. Has anyone been injured by one of these sideshow birds?
I can speak for our raptor organization, since I have seen it in action: We take the birds out for education, but only if it is safe for us and the bird to do so. If the bird is stressed or having a bad day, they stay behind. We are lucky to have some great, adjusted birds, who are great representatives to the public. It is totally evident in the faces of the people who listen to our programs that they are learning alot, and that their respect for birds of prey has grown.
I wonder, does this dork give the money he makes to raptor rescue or another similiar organization? I am betting he doesn't.
Thanks for putting up this post, Laura. It's unfortunate that some people would do this to a bird.
Any idea if this guy even has permits to have these birds?

LauraHinNJ said...

Yes, he is a licensed falconer and rehabilitator. I'll send you a link to his site, if you want. Has endorsements from a big optics company, too.

The public doesn't actually get to handle the birds, it just looks that way in the photo they make. He is actually holding the bird.

It's not that what he does is so bad, just that what he could do would be so much better.

The birds were stressed - by the extreme heat (imagine a snowy owl in 90 degree temps!) and from being in close proximity to people and each other. But I'm sure they're used to it.


TDharma said...

Robinson Jeffers is a local favorite. I grew up driving past his stone castle on the point in Carmel. You should read more of his work; he is brilliant.

SO, my NJ friend, I have tagged you on my blog....apologies, but I had to....

alan said...

Followed you "home", now I sit with tears flowing at this poem, your entry, your lovely heart and its kindness and love!

Thank you!


Lyn said...

Thank you for this you, I have a difficult time with individuals or organizations who "rescue" for fun and profit. Yes, there are those out there who act responsibly with the animal's best interest at heart...but what about the others? The "dog and pony show" displays and private "refuges"? It is indeed a to give the public a chance to have contact with a wild thing, without violating the soul and integrity of the animal(s) themselves...

As with the people who stand up to peer through my big lens in the hopes that these captive lives might touch at least one young mind who'll go on to change the world for them...but Jeffers' words hit a deeper, more painful and far truer chord.

Thanks for the comment on my blog...which in turn led me back to yours where I found this powerful poem and your thoughtful post.