In my last column, I lamented the fate of Romeos and Juliets through the ages. But take heart, all ye who mourn. Romeo and Juliet might be dead, but Christo and Dora are alive and well, raising three golden children.

Christo and Dora are the resident red-tailed hawks in Tompkins Square Park, here in the East Village. They’ve built a nest atop a convenient air conditioner on the Christodora House at the edge of the park. Like many other New York celebrities, they have no privacy as they go about their daily lives.

Paparazzi follow their every move. When they catch a pigeon and reduce it to blood and entrails, an admiring crowd often gathers to cheer them on. Our little band of devotees breathlessly follows their nesting saga via webcam.

Passing time with a thermos of tea in Tompkins Square Park is always fun, with or without birds. But now, during spring migration, birds rule. One day, my daughter and I see a scarlet tanager and are overcome with excitement. Of course, then I have to look for it every other day, and she finds this intensely boring. This takes me back to watching birds with my father, and I feel a nice connection with him across the abyss of Gone Forever, even as I miss him desperately and want to share the scarlet tanager with him.

There were so many times he was excited about a bird and I was dying to get back to my Enid Blyton…and now I’ve turned into him. Birdwatching can be a tale of fathers and daughters, mothers and daughters.

And husbands and wives. Christo and Dora are rather harried these days, with three mouths to feed. Fortunately our park is full of rats and squirrels, and, in an expression of true love and creative interior decorating, the latest webcam pictures show a nice arrangement of dead rodents around the hawk chicks. Another crowded Manhattan penthouse.

Dennis Edge captures Dora in flight. Photo: Dennis Edge

“Dead guy in the bathroom," a park employee says laconically. That’s disturbing, in the middle of so much surging life. But then, nature is red in tooth and claw.

Music takes over when the police cars leave. In his usual spot, Giuseppi Logan, the 78-year-old occasionally homeless jazz legend, picks up his saxophone and plays “Begin the Beguine" in the hope of spare change from passers-by. Nearby, a very famous musician hides behind a newspaper while his young son also makes music, for pennies.

Dennis Edge is another park regular. He has photographed 94 species of birds in this 10.5-acre piece of ground in Manhattan. Tompkins Square Park, theatre of great jazz, the Hare Krishna tree, heroin addicts, chess players, dogs, children, musicians, lovers, sunbathers. My daughter’s native place.

But back to Dennis. He is so generous with his knowledge. He shows me beauties like the magnolia warbler, emails me photos of the hawks, tells me tales of indigo buntings.

The elm trees are full of samaras—juicy little seeds that birds love, and travel from thousands of miles away to eat. The scarlet tanager has flown all the way from South America, and New York City is only a stopover on its way north. He’s a bird with a plan. J.R.R. Tolkien spoke the truth when he wrote, “Not all those who wander are lost."

I’m pondering all this, lost in the marvels of lilac and chestnut scents, miraculous after a truly bone-numbing winter, and watching Christo turn up at the nest with a freshly dead squirrel and give Dora a quick hello, and thinking deep thoughts…

“Sniff that ass!" yells a voice in my ear. I jump several feet.

“I love sniffing ass!" says the wild-eyed man who has crept up and parked himself on a nearby bench. I land in a quivering heap and he cackles.

Ah, the male of the species. Do birds sneak up on each other and say disgusting things? Do they need feminism? Does Dora ever say, “Honey, it’s time to take out the dead rat-bits and drop them in the park; the nest is a real mess." Does she have existential crises when she stops doing what she’s doing, looks around, wrings her (figurative) hands, and asks, “What does it all mean?" We know birds feel emotion, but do they feel angst? She just does what she does, the golden chicks grow up or not, the sparrows keep chirping, the starlings keep starling. The tanager continues on his way, and I walk with my daughter and channel my father.

“That’s sad about the dead guy," I say to the park employee on the way out.

“Nah, he woke up in the ambulance," she says. “He’s going to be fine."

There’s no moral to this story. It’s just a little reminder that spring is here; the birds are going nuts; the crazies are back on their park benches, filling the air with curses and gin-breath; a tattooed, muscled bicyclist stops suddenly and sniffs the lilacs; and, as Virginia Woolf said, “The wave of life flings itself out indefatigably." It’s also a reminder not to get too comfortable in your sunny little patch: You might get a dead squirrel dropped on your head.

Sohaila Abdulali is a New York-based writer. She writes a fortnightly column on women in the 21st century.

Also Read | Sohaila’s previous Lounge columns

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