Monday, March 06, 2006

The Harris Hawk

In 2002 I visited The Cotswold Falconry Centre in England, which is in Moreton-in-Marsh in Batsford Park. The Cotswolds are, as my English friend Mike is fond of saying, "very Oldy Worldy". Towns there have names like Chipping Norton and Stow-on-the-Wold, and one can well imagine a curious dragon peering out from behind one of the ancient oaks. Nestled in the heart of this blissfully British countryside is the Cotswold Falconry.

I had always wanted to see a real falconry. I had only ever seen one falconry demonstration, and that was with a Peregrine Falcon in upstate NY many years ago. However, I can still hear the sound of that falcon screaming as it shot like a bullet down a mountainside and through the mist of an autumn afternoon as it dove fearlessly for its prey. Its predatory singlemindedness was chilling.

The Cotswold Falconry not only does wonderful demonstrations with very knowledgeable falconers in charge, but they have a large number of breeding pairs which are protected in very large enclosures for the period of breeding and gestation.

We had arrived somewhat late in the day. My friends and I were almost the only visitors. I stopped to spend some time looking at the Harris Hawks, great imposing brownish/black birds with rust shoulders. Not inconsequential in size, they can have a wingspan of up to four feet in width.

I stood at the front of their aviary, and the male came right up to the mesh fencing and looked me square in the eye. It felt very deliberate of him. I started to walk away, and he made the oddest sound - not a bird noise at all -- more like a cross between a moan and a purr in a higher register.

It stopped me dead in my tracks.

I turned back to look at him, and he began to do this odd little dance, rather like shrugging his shoulders repeatedly at me, never taking his eyes off me. But it didn't feel as though he was trying to intimidate me. On the contrary. Then he made that sound again.

And then I did something wildly foolish.

I made the sound back at him.

He stared at me. Then he made the sound back at me, with a different lilt.

I tried to emulate his response. He was silent, and then purr/moaned at me again.

So, there we stood for over 20 minutes cooing and purr-moaning at each other, looking at each other straight in the eye with an unwavering stare.

Moan, stare, purr, stare.

And although I probably looked like God's own idiot, the urge to do this was undeniably strong. It felt like this bird was trying to break through to me, and I to him. And so we kept up this odd conversation, with me pouring feeling into my sounds to him, and with him sounding as though he was pouring feeling into his sounds back at me. Whatever the motive, it was clear to me that this bird "got" me in some deep way, and I "got" him. We had managed to connect in some bizarre way across our independent species.

It came time to leave, and I confess it was hard to go. I'd look back over my shoulder as we walked away, and the Harris Hawk kept moving to a part of the enclosure where he could see me. He stood on branches right at the mesh, looking, until we were out of sight of each other.

The strangest phenomenon was that for weeks I found myself missing him, missing him the way one longs for something that makes us feel whole, missing him as though something of great value had been taken from me. And perhaps it had been.

I wonder, on this chilly March afternoon, if I returned would he recognize me? But I only wonder for an instant. Then I know.

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mata,
That is a wonderful story.

Never, for a minute, doubt that the Hawk and You were One. Animals intuit every human and every other animal that they come across. The Hawk saw and sensed in You something that You did not know existed until You met Him. Your Spirits were conversing.

You can connect with the Harris Hawk right from your own home through meditation. If you are diligent and ask for help in prayer, soon your spirits will once again connect.

I have a great respect for animals. Granted, some are more favored than others, but they know when they come into the presence of one who is spiritual.

I don't really think that you found the Hawk. I think that the Hawk found you.

Religionfree

11:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Allow me to say "oh yes, woman, you CAN write" -
my conclusion arrived at by reading the above and quite a few other ones of your posts ....

Emm

2:29 PM  
Blogger Miss Eagle said...

I was fascinated with this article. Do you happen to know what is the difference between falcon, hawk, and eagle? You see, for just over ten years now The Eagle has become a central feature of my spiritual life - something, I think, akin to a totem. I have a piece of scripture which speaks of this. It is in the Song of Moses in the Tanakh: Deuteronomy 32:10,11. I alter the relevant pronouns to the feminine. "he found her in a desert land and in the wasteland a howling wilderness. He encircled her, he instructed her, he kept her as the apple of his eye. As an eagle stirs up its nest, hovers over its young, spreading out its wings, taking them up, carrying them on its wings." When this experience and this scripture came into my life I was indeed living in the desert where the winds howl in the winter. Now I live, not by my own design, in a part of Australia in which, in aboriginal belief, the eagle - Bunjil - is the creator spirit. So perhaps you can understand why I value your experience and the deep connection you made.

6:51 AM  
Blogger Mata H said...

Religionfree-- I think the hawk and I found eachother:-)

Emm -- thank you for your kindness


Miss Eagle - Interesting! Australia is a very special place for me. I have a bit of knowing about Aboriginal art, so it was really breathtaking and soul-touching to see it " in the flesh" in Australia.

6:47 PM  
Blogger dgingerb said...

harris' hawk has puple feathers

5:17 PM  
Blogger dgingerb said...

gdeyfjc tfuffuf fdhf gfugfuv gtgg ggb gh g

5:18 PM  

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