«WINGS ARE MADE TO FLY»
A creative non-fiction essay by Taixa Hernández Díaz.
Parabuteo unicinctus, also known as bay-winged hawk, or dusky hawk. The Harris’s hawk.
We had one once. I was around nine years-old at the time. My father had been working for a while in El Hierro, and all his new friends had some sort of eagle. They were a group of falconry aficionados. My mother, brother and I had travelled to the island with our small dog, Yoi, as we did often. The day we met her, Brisa, she engraved into my brain a few lessons that should have been obvious but were not yet.
It happened like this: off we drove to an up-hill field in the summer evening light; a vast coat of gold in the sky and on the ground—the perfect scenario for pretending to be on a dramatic music video, I may add. My guess today is that this was meant to be an exhibition of the American hawk’s magnificence; an attempt to win the family over. I was impressed by Brisa when I first saw her. She stood on the world with a dignified aura, as corresponds to a bird of prey. Yet, I was more scared than anything. Her eyes were penetrating, even crazed, it seemed to me. There was no trust in them, no sympathy. I could not tell what she would do next. She was too forceful, too fast, too sharp, too unpredictable.
So, on this charming field we all stood. Yoi trotting around within eyesight, as she always did. Brisa was set to fly; the show began. A couple of laps over our heads and she would return for her reward—raw bits of chicken. For the next lap she flew higher, further away. I remember thinking at the time: “well, there she goes.” I remember scanning the golden field looking for our cream-colored dog, almost invisible in the bushes. I remember a shadow falling from the sky at unbearable speed, right on top of where I had just seen Yoi’s head. The grass flattened where they rolled down the hill. An angry ball of feathers and fur.
And the screams; they echoed and mixed. “For all its outstanding eyesight, that stupid bird sure cannot tell a dog apart from a rabbit” I kept mumbling angrily that night while holding Yoi in my arms. The flying exhibition had cost a few bloody scratches on my mother’s hands and an ugly wound under the dog’s eye.
I had been much too upset at the time to rationalize what had happened. I could only see it as an attack; an act of evil from the feathery intruder. However, this moment stuck with me, so that when I had got over it, I could understand. Harris’s hawks do not belong in the Canaries. This is not their natural habitat or climax. They have been brought over for amusement, for sport, I guess; for the sake of exoticism. Not only that, but they are tamed and tied to a post—limited, flightless. The craze I saw in Brisa’s eyes was probably due to a sense of dislocation and confusion. How could I trust an animal that does not get to be itself? An animal that is robbed of its essence? What good does it do to a bird to be caged or roped? Brisa behaved driven by pure, natural predator instinct, not by an inner evil force. It was probably the only chance she got to do so, since every other time she would be fed by the human hand. What is the fun in that? Being a bird of prey that cannot prey on any prey. Having wings that are not cut off, but might as well be. Being let loose to fly only momentarily, restrictedly, on an environment of trees that will not allow for speed.
Dogs and cats are good companions; they have grown accustomed to living with humans throughout the centuries, and they have developed a sense of belonging with us. But not hawks. Hawks are not pets. Their eyes, their claws and beaks are made to hunt other living beings. Their wings are made to fly. Every bird is a child of the winds and the sky. Let them fly.