I was working on a draft of this book in the upstairs of our home in Plainfield, New Jersey. The town lies within the urban complex surrounding New York City, about twenty-five miles from Manhattan. Happening to glance down into the backyard, I saw something odd. I put on glasses.
A hawk or large falcon—mottled brown and white, standing erect and alert—an inert pigeon lying, purple breast up, between its great clawed feet! The raptor scanned the scene with its golden eyes, then with rapid movements of beak plucked feathers from the pigeon’s breast. Its watching ceased momentarily. A patch of skin exposed, it tore off small strips of flesh. Instantly the scanning resumed as the bird swallowed the meat.
I grabbed binoculars and spotted it, but it was too close to be focused. Backing up, flattening against the wall, adjusting the binoculars to their near-range limit, I got one clear image shrouded by fainter ones. Glued to the bird’s beak was a small bloody feather. Its eye—a great reticulated yellowish orb—shone like living glass.
Then Then the visual field exploded. I lowered binoculars to glimpse the bird flying up through the trees to the left. Near the fence to the right was the neighbor’s cat approaching the pigeon.
—from Wild Hunger: The Primal Roots of Modern Addiction by Bruce Wilshire
I didn’t know about his theater background, but now it’s clear to me that his actor’s bearing and vocal projection were what made his reading this passage in class so effective. I’ve been seeing hawks (possibly the same one) on our daily walks. Just 5 days ago we watched the same scene of a hawk picking apart a pigeon (after the video of the squirrel warning its brethren).
It’s hard for me not to attribute some significance to this. Whether coincidence or not, the signifiers say to me that there’s something important in this, that I should pay attention. I can hear his voice, his intonation and inflection, the deep emphatic in-breaths, his ecstatic presence in the room.
The Ganesha we saw tonight stood out to me. It fits somewhere in my iconography. Whether all of this bodes well or ill, they give my mind something to hook onto. Something about that wildness that Bruce valued so much needs to be kept vital and in view.