The Art Of Falconry: Keeping Our Love Wild.
“These birds do not need you. They know how to fly. They know how to hunt.”
This was written upon the cover of the San Diego Reader sitting on the coffee table. In the photograph was a gorgeous image of a woman with a golden eagle mid-flight with its wicked talons splayed, reaching to grip her wrist. This caught my complete attention, right after I had received a text that said:
“Go soar on those wings you so love.”
Then it hit me like lightning.
But first, I must digress.
I have been intrigued in the art of falconry for as long as I can remember, though I have never acted upon it or been around these amazing birds up close, even though I see them every day in the wild. As well as around San Diego, tourist spots sometimes employ falconers, to keep the problem birds at bay. We have some fairly aggressive seagulls here.
But every time I see a person with a bird of prey perched on their forearm, something within my heart, soul and more base energy places ignites with a yearning-fire.
It’s like riding an elegant, haunting whisper to a memory or a reverie I knew once upon a time, that my heart cries out for again — trying to reach whatever it is within me that wants to be that person with that great gorgeous bird for a companion.
What was it about this ‘sport of kings’? Said the tugging at my soul. The red tails and peregrines and merlins. Every time I see one, I take it as a message from some higher place — if for no other reason than to revel and pause, in the extremely sexy and exquisite nature of these divine creatures and the wild from whence they come.
I’ve noticed that lately there has been a lot of talk in the collective about something affectionately being called: The Wild. It shows up in movies, in quotes, in status updates, in women’s circles — everywhere — a consciousness that is rising and it’s within all of us — male and female alike.
Then the other day, something suddenly connected when I received my friends text, then caught the image of the woman on the magazine with that gorgeous golden eagle and her thick leather glove. The fact she had a glove on at all screamed: This bird is dangerous.
But as I’ve pondered it through the years, the danger of these birds is not a danger to be feared, but a danger to be revered. Raptors are fierce and could damage you, not because they are angry or mean, but simply because they are wild — and that is just their nature. You cannot tame these birds, all falconers know this.
“The birds choose you,” said my friend, who I was engaged with recently in conversation about these phenomenal creatures — the same friend who sent the text about soaring. He has worked extensively with exotic birds, particularly those of the preying kind and was educating me on their ways.
Something in the: Wings. Wild. Vicious. Freedom. Fierce. Flight. Predator. Talons, to the piercing frown of their brow lines. These birds get into me deep. And there is one more phrase equated to the birds of prey I love — it is called Pair bonding, as nearly every single one of them chooses one mate for the duration of their life time.
Then it dawned on me why the art of falconry was so sexy.
The falcons pair-bonded to their falconer: a kind of soul-mate-esque relationship. Where the bird impresses upon his handler and the handler learns about the wild nature of his bird in reverence. They teach each other. Challenge each other. And love each other fiercely.
I relate fervently to this pair bond.
When I love again, it will be like the falcon’s love.
It will be like the relationship the falcon forms to its handler. Because a falconer knows the bird does not need him. The bird is free to leave whenever she chooses. Even in the falconer’s care and protection, she is still wild.
Perhaps it is just simply his protection that keeps her there upon his arm — his ability to appreciate the gorgeous creature that she is, respect her, hold her and fly her proudly.
He takes her hunting to keep her wild. Her wings are beautifully intact and reflect the light of the gods — and strongly. She is fierce. She’s a huntress. She still belongs to The Wild. She will never belong to her handler. Her handler knows she could rip his skin off at any time, yet still he stays close to her. Still he treats her as a delicate, lovely thing.
So, if she is free to leave, whenever she wants, what makes her stay?
The unspoken idea that perhaps the bird and her falconer are not so different? And that somehow they see the bridge between themselves and their essence within one another?
Their mutual needs to be of The Wild Nature? Not a bird tamed, clipped and caged. No, not at all. It doesn’t work that way in the falconer’s world. To truly, truly love operates something fierce, like the handler to his falcon. You honor me, I honor you. I want to be with you, you want to be with me. And in this is love.
She keeps him wild simply by being the animal on his arm, luring him to windswept foothills and seducing him to nature’s rhythmic vibrations. He keeps her wild by taking her to hunt. Making her work to feed. All the while allowing her to soar on drafts that lift her up carried higher and higher.
He cannot tame her. He cannot own her. He just simply, loves her for exactly what she is: A bird of prey.
Free and fierce.
He says: “If my bird returns to me at the end of the day, it’s a good day.” If a talon finds itself sunk deep in his skin, he simply says: “Aah… fuck! That hurts so good.” Like any good love tends to do, and secretly he’s proud of the scar, because she gave it to him and he is so proud of her strength — not threatened by it.
He does not hit her, shun her, or resent her for it. He patiently waits for her to release her grip, because he knows if he tries to pry her away, he will break her talon. He will injure her Wild. Even though she is swift, he is bigger and stronger. They both appreciate these things within each other. She knows he keeps her safe.
She cannot be made tame. All the falconer can do is love her harder. And the harder he loves, the more in tune with his own Wild he becomes. The more he learns what it is to actually love when he can love her and admit to himself in clarity: She is free to fly away any time she wishes.
Resting in surrender to the idea that she may never return if she leaves his arm. There is so much honor in this.
Yet she stays, because she loves. And what he has given her is priceless.
Love should be handled like the falconers handle their wild winged things. For love is a vicious bird that wants to be with you. It doesn’t need you.
The moment we try to tame it, or own it, or keep it, it dies to its nature. It takes all the meaning out of what love truly is. What the falcon truly represents. We all have our thoughts of what love should be. But what is love, actually? To have. To hold.
But certainly not to own.
Love cannot be tamed but it can be had. At any moment however, it could fly away or rip the hell out of you leaving your heart a wretched pile of carrion. But if the falconer and his bird choose to maintain their pair bond, this is most certainly within the jurisdiction of The Wild Nature of raptors.
Together they can walk and fly as whole and different, but in awe of what the other is. Proud to be there for each other with that certain thing between them, that makes us stop in our tracks with our jaws at our knees, mouthing off:
I want to love like that! With that magnificent Wild upon my arm free to fly. How gorgeous and scary and humbling would that be? Reminding me of my humanity and how fierce or fragile I can be — if he flew away forever from me.
“These birds do not need you. They know how to fly. They know how to hunt.”
They want you.
And that’s what makes it utterly terrifying in that hurts-so-good way.