This review can also be seen in the Canon City Daily Record.
I am not a bird person. Never have been, and the day a parrot bit me, I knew I never would be. I avoid aviaries and I ignore chickadees and robins at bird-feeders. Yet, we have chickens. I am able to enjoy them - somewhat - if at a respectable distance.
One evening, I looked into my backyard and saw our new, young rooster moving oddly at the door to the chicken house. He was out in the yard, back into the coop, and then back out the door again. What was he doing?! And then my eyes fell on a hawk, sitting on a fence post at the edge of our property - utterly still. The rooster finally stopped moving in and out, deeming the yard safe. When the hawk suddenly changed his position, the chicken ran back into the hen house. After a few moments of complete stillness from the bird of prey, the domestic bird felt safe to try his luck outside. And once again, the hawk changed his position, just slightly, like a game of Red Light, Green Light... taunting the poor rooster!
Amused, I saw the hawk had a sense of humor, a sense of fun about his business. So I was only mildly shocked at myself when I picked up "H Is for Hawk" by Helen Macdonald. One of the Ten Best Books from the 2015 New York Times Book Review, I had heard delighted praise for this work - part grief memoir, part literary exploration, part natural poetry. Surprised, but pleased, I was hooked from the first page, and I found myself enjoying yet another bird. This one was named Mabel.
With beautiful sentences, and delicious phrases Macdonald introduces us to her love for goshawks, a raptor related to eagles and buzzards. She observes, "Looking for goshawks is like looking for grace: it comes, but not often and you don't get to say when or how." Amidst the tale of her purchase, training, and flying of the hawk, we are invited to travel through the bereavement that grips her upon the untimely death of her father. And woven with these tender intimacies, Macdonald shares with us the private despairs of fellow falconer, T.S. White, author of "The Once and Future King." She divulges how the stories he composed of King Arthur, Merlin, and Camelot mirrored his own griefs, and how he found a dichotomy of struggle and relief in goshawking, just as she does.
This textured narrative insists that while the heart breaks and seeks flight, healing is only found in the human world. And I found, here, another bird to admire.