“Wind rises up sheer cliffs like a waterfall in reverse. My face enters the wind, moving over empty space where a bird of prey vaults skyward from under my feet. It comes out of nowhere, born of smooth sandstone, as if I interrupted a myth in progress. I am startled to see such abrupt motion this close to a fall, and I almost swallow my heart. But the bird unfolds with such grace that I am immediately stilled.
“It is a peregrine falcon, a cliff diver. Not once does it flap or even budge its outspread silver-gray wings. It merely cups the wind with them the way you might hold a glass ball in your hand. The wind brings the falcon up to me, lofting it over the abyss. I can reach out my hand and graze its rank of checkered feathers. For a falcon it is large, but the cleanness of its shape makes it appear moderately sized, its wingspan no farther across than a yardstick.
“Wearing an aviator’s cap of dark feathers, the bird looks over its shoulder, flicking a glance at me. The expression is not infuriated, as I would expect from such a territorial animal as this. Instead, the falcon sets me with an easy stare, as if looking over the top of a book to see who has come through the door.
“Fastest bird in the world, capable of two-hundred-mile-per-hour dives, this one is motionless in the air. It is an axis around which the world seems to turn as I stare back at the gleaming point of its eye, the desert dropping and spinning around it. I could fall for it, lean out too far, hoping to graze my fingers through its wings as I plummet off the Wingate. I nearly become part of the myth, barely remembering to keep my feet on the ground.”
–Craig Childs, The Animal Dialogues
Meanwhile, watched a rather troubling video of a human hunter taking out a large cat yesterday, as research, and am thinking a lot about predator/prey relationships, and when I do and don’t (can and can’t) admire joy and hunting, in animals and in humans. Much has to do with necessity, I think: taking joy in what is also necessary is a different thing from playing the predator for the joy of the kill alone. And I come back around to a Robert Frost quote that L’Engle first introduced me years ago: “Only where love and need are one, / And the work is play for mortal stakes, / Is the deed ever really done / For Heaven and the future’s sakes.”
I’m still thinking. Writing books about shapeshifters humans who are also animals will do that, I guess.