from . . .

    The Wildness Within Us

          by  David R. Brower


My  job was to help capture some birds and that was why I was there before the trucks. The cabin had not been occupied for years.There were holes in the roof and the birds had come in and were roosting in the rafters. I pushed the door open, the hinges squeaking only a little. A bird or two stirred - I could hear them - but nothing flew and there was a faint starlight through the holes in the roof. I padded across the floor and got the ladder up and the light ready, and everything worked perfect except for one detail-- I didn't know what kind of birds were there. I never thought about it at all, I snapped on the flash and sure enough there was a great beating and feathers flying, but instead of my having them they, or rather he, had me. He had my hand, that is, and for a small hawk not much bigger than my fist he was doing all right. I heard him  give one short metallic cry when the light went on and my hand decended on the bird beside him; after that he was busy with his claws and his beak was sunk in my thumb. In the struggle I knocked the lamp over on the shelf, and his mate got her sight back and whisked neatly through the hole in the roof and off amoung the stars outside.




[Sharon Yates]

 [Eliot Porter]

  He was a sparrow hawk, and a fine young male in the prime of life. I was very sorry not to catch the pair of them, but had to admit the two of them might have been more than I could have handled under the circumstances. The little fellow had saved his mate by diverting me, and that was that. He was born to it, and made no outcry now, resting in my hand hopelessly, but peering toward me in the shadows behind the lamp with a fierce, almost indifferent glance. He neither gave nor expected mercy and somethihg out of the high air passed from  him to me, stirring a faint embarassment.

    I put the bird in a box too small to allow him to injure himself by struggle. In the morning I was up early and brought the box out onto the grass where I was building a cage. A wind as cool as a mountain spring ran over the grass and stirred my hair. It was a fine day to be alive. I looked up and all around at that hole in the cabin roof out of which the other little hawk had fled.

  "Probably in the next county by now," I thought cynically, but before begining work I decided I'd have a look at my last nights capture.

Secretively, I looked again all around the camp and up and down and opened the box. I got him right out in my hand with his wings folded properly and I was carefull not to startle him. He lay limp in my grasp and I could feel his heart pound under the feathers but he only looked beyond me and up.

I saw him look that last look away beyond me into a sky so full of light that I could not follow his gaze. The little breeze flowed over me again, and nearby a mountain aspen shook all it's tiny leaves. I suppose I must have had an idea about what I was going to do, but I never let it come up into consciousness. I just reached over and laid the hawk on the grass.

    He lay there a long minute without hope, unmoving, his eyes still fixed on that blue vault above him. It must have been that he was already so far away in heart that he never felt the release from  my hand. He never even stood. He just lay with his breast against the grass.


    In the next second after that long minute he was gone. Like a flicker of light, he had vanished with my eyes full on him, into that towering emptiness of light and crystal that my eyes could scarcely bear to penetrate. For another long moment there was silence. I could not see him. The light was too intense. Then from  far up somewhwer a call came ringing down.

    I was young then and had seen little of the world, but when I heard that cry my heart turned over. It was not the cry of the hawk I had captured;

Straight out of the sun's eye, where she must have been soaring restlessly above us for untold hours, hurtled his mate. And from  far up, ringing from peak to peak of the summits over us, came a cry of such unutterable and ecstatic joy that it sounds down across the years.

  I saw them  both now. He was rising fast to meet her. They met in a great soaring gyre that turned into a whirling circle and a dance of wings. Once more, just once, their two voices joined in a harsh wild medley of question and response, struck and echoed against the pinnacles of the valley. Then they were gone forever somewhere into those upper regions beyond the eyes of men.

                                                                 --Loren Eiseley


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 [John Chang McCurdy]