Gyre of hawks

Sitting on the tailgate

Yesterday, I drove to the Field, a distance of 72 miles west of Fort Worth. When I arrived at 10:00 a.m., the temperature was 52 degrees and the sky remained cloudy while I shredded dead grass from the winter. Vetch grew three, four feet up the dead stalks.

When I finished shredding, I sat on the tailgate of my old 2003 Ford F-250 to rest.

In the pecan orchard of the Old Bryant Place, south of the Field, four hawks sat in the branches, talking to one another. I understood their talk as either squabbling or courtship–perhaps something else. Soon, three of the hawks took flight and circled the middle of the field. One of them, while I was shredding an hour earlier, had alighted on the ground to kill a vole, but had failed to do so.

Roger Tory Peterson, A Field Guide to Western Birds, personal field guide of Jack Matthews

I think the hawks red-tailed hawks by type, but I had neither my Peterson nor binoculars to accurately type. They continued their gyre ever upward, circling higher about the center of the field. Soon the three hawks were joined by a fourth in their climb.

Two of the hawks began to dive on one another. I thought I saw them touch claws, but I am not sure. Was it play, a tussle for territory (in the air?), or something else? They continued their gyre until they were specks in the sky and I lost sight of their soaring above the field.

I dismounted from the tailgate, locked the horse trailer, and pitched the tractor seat forward so it would not hold water if it rained.

From Pueblo emergence narratives, we humans live in the Fourth World, three worlds being below us, stacked like disks upon the other. In the Third World, all living things, even the stones, talked to one another, but upon emerging from the Third World, that capacity was lost.

Yet, so, it is believed and demonstrated that the language to communicate with living things remains intact. When I saw, sitting on my tailgate, the gyre of soaring hawks I conjugated meaning from what I saw, and what I heard–a kind of Fourth World language I continue to enroll in, day by day….

Jack Matthews’ first novel, “Death at La Osa,” is under review for the 2020 Tony Hillerman Award for the Best First Novel of mystery set in the Southwest.


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