A bullet of black and white and brown streaks from the sky above and grabs the ball, makes a wide circle and settles, fluffed and agitated, on my wrist. I stroke the feathers beneath her dark amber eye with the knuckle of my index finger, crooning words of praise and beauty. I bend my face to the crown of her head and inhale her wild, dusty smell. She is fierce, she is hungry, she is Peregrine, and she is mine.
On these exercise mornings I think about how, long ago, I came across her path and saved her life. She came into Wind Over Wings damaged and emaciated, wounded by some collision or perhaps a projectile, a carelessly thrown rock. I doubt that, she is too fast … perhaps in pursuit of a smaller bird, she did not see the approaching car? I'll never know. On those long days of healing, her wing splinted and her feathers dirty with her own filth, I would peer into her eyes and will her to speak. Tell me, tell me what it was.
I prepare the lure for another flight, reflecting upon the illness that courses through my own bloodstream, threatening to consume my body from the inside out. Two treatments left and then maybe a clean bill of health? There’s no way of knowing. I cling to the hope that these outings of fresh air and exercise will imbue my body with just enough positivity to tip the scales in my favor. Maybe if I hang my soul from the talons of this little beast, she can carry my hopes towards the heavens and release them, there to diffuse and to shower life down upon me.
I chuckle at my sad attempts to bring poetic meaning to this ritual, the morning flight runs that keep my bird strong and allow me to breathe the cold, new air. Still, perhaps there is just a little magic in this bond and in these moments. Enough to keep me happy, surely, and perhaps enough to heal me.
The target prepared and my falcon circling above my head, I pull the band of my slingshot back once more, aiming for the rising sun. I stretch the band to its limit, holding the ball in its leather cup as I glance at the bird, climbing in her anticipation. Pulling the band just a bit further I release, and watch as she pursues her quarry. Ah, beautiful, beautiful. Beautiful, beautiful bird, my mind whispers.
The light in the east fills out the horizon just as she dives, a feathered arrow of hope, into the blue and silent sunrise.