Encounter

November 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

Written in November 2006.

Crisp coolness of autumn air. Naked trees stark against the sky, no leaves to obstruct observation of the ground. Stiff brown leaf-fall highlighting mouse-movement. Ripe nuts and fruist enticing squirrels into harvest-frenzy.

Autumn is good for the prey, and so autumn is good for the hunt… and the hawk.

We walk the woods often this autumn – the changing one, the cat, and the hawk. A river runs cold and shallow, banked with rocks and bridged with fallen trees. The cat leaps with fluid grace to one fallen tree, stalking its water-worn trunk; she is all feline now, and stares wide and fascinated at the shiftings beneath the river’s surface. The changing one watches without motion or sound, entranced.

Branches crackle and dead bark falls as the cat leaps into a pine and up, clawing and pulling from limb to limb. The upper branches seem too small to support even her tiny frame, but she paws at the base of each and they hold. She crouches thirty feet up, wide-eyed and silent and watching.

I am caught between feathers and skin, staring up into trees I cannot reach, wings loose and uncertain. Hawk wants altitude; hawk wants the vantage of height to watch and wait and listen. The trees stand bared on a steep hillside; I am only partway up its height.

Move.

The hilltop calls. I crabstep upwards, careful, awkward; each step crunches sticks and leaves. The ground is noise and treachery, shifting and slipping beneath my clenching claw-feet. I’m aware of the sound of hissing, soft and wary, before I’m aware that it’s me, beak agape and breath hissing past an inflexible tongue.

Ground is not safe!

Stop, stare at the cold-autumn blue past a lattice of branches. Safer up there, more natural – but I can’t reach it.

Get higher.

Step, crunch, step. Careful of the weak knee, watch the sliding ground. There – big fallen tree, well covered, and I can make my cramped gawkish way up to its middle and perch, high above the cat and the river and the changing one.

Hawk-thoughts fill my head; I am all beak and blood, now. Feathers fluff against the autumn chill; talons grip the weathered tree. I am immobile, all silent observation, watching for every minute motion.

There.

Leaf-crunch, fur-rustle; the cat has returned to earth. She stares and sniffs, prowls on all fours. I watch, unseen; she creeps silent behind a tree as the changing one returns from the river, and he does not notice her nor me.

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