They weren’t too enthusiastic about squeezing into a cardboard box; nonetheless, the pain sometimes rendered them lethargic.

Little did they know that cardboard box offered a trip to the Raptor Recovery Center, my mom being a volunteer on the raptor relay chain.

To my recollection she didn’t get a lot of calls, but over the years kind-hearted neighbors, relatives and total strangers sought help. They could have easily let the compromised bird die slowly on the highway shoulder, along the fence line, in a field… instead they picked up the phone.

Mom would come to the bird’s rescue, carefully placing the frightened creature in a large cardboard box, closing the lid to keep it in the dark. Upon arrival, my brother and I would huddle around the box, sitting on the kitchen floor. I sometimes softly talked to the injured bird, thinking I could comfort it.

I was very young, and didn’t understand why Mom insisted on filling and refilling the medicine syringe with fresh water, prodding the end into the side of the bird’s beak. Half of the water missed the mark, soaking the towel wrapped around the bird. It seemed futile, and feeding a giant raptor raw hamburger via tweezers was more fun – and satisfying. But even then, I knew we had an important responsibility.

When the time came for the bird to be sent to the next stop on its way to Raptor Recovery, my little heartstrings were pulled. I knew the bird could never be a pet, but still I wanted it to stay with us. “Goodbye, get better,” I’d call out as the raptor was relayed to the next stop.

One day, though, we gathered to get a special hawk relayed to her final stop.

There was a perfect clearing in the cluster of trees brambling in our friends’ back yard. It was like an entryway to new beginnings, a tall, grassy pasture stretching out to the north. The late-morning sun was shining and the clouds were whispers. The carrier jostled and bucked, the anxious hawk inside ready to again soar into the wild. When rescued months ago, no one knew whether she’d recover or spend the rest of her life in captivity.

I am unsure as to how the reunion was orchestrated; I’m guessing Mom and our neighbor – also a Raptor Recovery volunteer – orchestrated something with Raptor Recovery, all parties realizing how special it would be for kids to release a healed raptor that briefly occupied a cardboard box in their home.

She slapped her wings, disoriented, but finally found her flight. Clumsily at first she panicked due north beyond the clearing and over the grassy field. We cheered and waved as she got her bearings, turning into a speck in the whispering clouds.

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