June 08, 2011

The Woman, the Goshawk, and Death in its Varieties

Falconer and writer Rebecca O'Connor interviews falconer, writer, and scholar Helen Macdonald about the latter's life in falconry, which began at age eleven. Here is a taste:
But as for the writing – yes, I’m hammering out a kind of modern-day version of TH White’s The Goshawk — oh the presumption. My story’s simple. In 2007 my dad’s sudden, unexpected death sent me off the rails. And I decided to eschew bereavement counselling in favour of training a goshawk. Yes, Helen; like that would solve everything. Um.
Looking back on it, I was trying to escape being human, because humans grieve and hurt, and hawks don’t. It was an … intense experience. I went feral. Became more than half-hawk myself. As the season went on I cut myself off from friends, family, everything. All that was left was Mabel and me, out on hillsides slaying rabbits and pheasants. Slowly, unknowingly, I sank into a very deep depression. I was so hawkish then I didn’t recognise it for what it was. Couldn’t work out why I struggled to get out of bed in the mornings, or why, in the evenings, Mabel fast asleep with a full crop on her bow on the living room floor, I sat in floods of tears. How dumb was I?
It wasn’t until November, when I attended my father’s memorial service in St Bride's in Fleet Street, standing there at the lectern giving an address to family and all dad’s friends and colleagues in the congregation, that it dawned on me what a fool I’d been. I’d bought into that old nature-writer’s chestnut that after a great hurt you should flee to the wild to heal yourself. I’m thinking now this is a dangerous lie. Human hands are also for other human hands to hold; they should not be reserved exclusively as perches for hawks.
Read it all here.

1 comment:

Connie Kogler said...

Great read, thanks!