Every year for the past several, I have watched the peregrine falcons who nest on a downtown highrise. There is a webcam setup there, and I take a look many times a day during nesting season. It’s the most fascinating thing to watch the mother sitting on her eggs, and then the hatching and the feeding and the growing and the suspenseful leave-taking. Twenty-five percent of the time, they say, it’s the father keeping watch, but let’s just stay with “mother” right now. Falcons, in case you’ve never had a good look at one, are heart-catch beautiful, and the babies are adorable fluffs of white feathers, sleepy eyes and wobbly legs at first.
I’ve spent extra time watching the past few days. The best time of the day is late afternoon, when the sun is lighting the nest well enough to see everything clearly, but not glaring on the camera lens and blurring the view.
Yesterday, the mother was watching over three white fluffs, with one egg yet to hatch. There seemed to be something going on with that egg, though, and the mother was keeping a close eye on it and the chicks already born. Sometimes she covers them up entirely with her body, but yesterday afternoon she was standing over them in an angelic pose, wings poised and at the ready should the babies need their extra protection.
The mother falcon instinctively knows the right thing to do; the right move to make. She knows so much more than I do, and yet so much less. The future is not a concept that she understands or cares about. She lives only in this moment. (Non-human creatures are always trying to teach us this.) Are her newborns safe this moment? Is the unhatched egg safe and warm? She may be living the words of an Olive Kitteridge character: “If you can’t figure out something…don’t watch what you think, watch what you do.”
I watch, like praying, and I try to learn.