I was a process server with an attorney services business, serving evictions, foreclosures, and sundry subpoenas and complaints. We were in the middle of the last housing crash and I was 23, working 14 hour days and immediately despised by all whose misfortune led me to their door. I was living in an apartment above my father’s garage because I had just sent the stalker, who had walked into my rented condo and nearly shot my baby brother, to jail. Yet even the cloistered press of butting up against my father’s life couldn’t squeeze away the night frights. My father and I were in a lot of ways strangers and the grandfather who raised me was downstairs slowly leaving us with a sadness and a readiness that I refused to accept. Nothing was okay for me, unless I was flying my hawk.
Dirt hawking alone pushes your physical limits. Trip on wires, stumble into squirrel holes, scrape yourself on gnarled vines, beat bush, bake in the sun and race after slips. When the hunt is over, you’re as exhausted as the hawk, but you feel just as complete. The punishment is part of the bliss and I was slowly finding enlightenment.
The moment that made me happened at dusk. I was alone with my hawk, who was panting with a jack rabbit in her feet. I looked up with sweat stung eyes, stretching aching muscles and realized I wasn’t just alone, I was someplace both out of this time and critical to its existence. I was a hunter thanking the rabbit that fed her hawk, sating the sand with perspiration and blood, just as we had taken the life that sprung from it. The air was spiced with fermenting feral grapes, the song birds hidden in the vines now accepting us with their evening chatter. We were part of something immense and curved back on itself, but also something invisible.
The rush hour hive of vehicles passing close enough to make out my features didn’t see me and I knew they were a piece of the world I must return to, but I also knew the space I was in would call me back. It would keep calling even if I covered my ears and screamed about money and possessions and responsibility. I knew I was now owned by a wild and dangerous place that would steal hawks, destroy dogs and break my heart –yet always give back more than she took. It was only five acres of forgotten vineyard, a watermark on the page of what progress had done to Ontario, California, but it was everything and I was a falconer.
And I’m not the only one, I know. What was the moment that made you?