My idea of a deep wilderness, personally, being an older shuffling guy, is a suburban park in which an attentive soul might, in an hour or two of keeping his eyes peeled, see the occasional osprey or heron or kestrel; like yesterday, when I saw a kestrel heroically and unsuccessfully trying to hoist a vole as big as she was.
This was not far from the monkey bars where my two young charges were doing their level best to incur astronomical dental bills. My two headlong charges did not notice the falcon and her epic physics problem but I paid close attention, because I could not imagine how a bird my grampa used to call a windhover was going to bring home the bacon, so to speak, and I am given to understand that meat is a serious concern for kestrels, and I am a student of creative solutions to complex problems, and maybe the falcon was also like me and attending to two young charges, and also it seemed to me that perhaps the vole was exacting some posthumous revenge, which is something you hardly ever see, or say; so I watched closely.
I counted seven herculean and muscle-popping efforts by the falcon to get the vole aloft before she surrendered—I could swear she was panting, or cursing, or both—and hunched over the corpse for a while, brooding, perhaps about the immanence of death in the brilliant thicket of life. Then she shook herself, like a sprinter shakes her muscles before she steps to the starting line, and she sliced the vole into what looked like, from where I sat, seven pieces, and then she carried the pieces one at a time up into a tremendous white oak tree, and then it was time for me to retrieve the children and go home and hose them off and feed them meat.
As we left the park I detoured past the spot where the vole had died and noticed one of his or her feet; I am not sure which one. This foot was absolutely beautiful, I report; a meticulously built device, a really amazing piece of machinery. As the children sprinted to the gate I knelt and buried the vole’s foot, because that seemed like the right thing to do, under the circumstances, and then we went home.
Brian Doyle is the editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland, and the author, most recently, of a novella, Cat’s Foot.