The universe is not hostile, nor is it friendly.

It is simply indifferent.

John Hughes Holmes


A modern sailplane can glide more efficiently than any hawk, but that’s its only advantage.  Hawks’ instincts are essentially flawless, so their circles mark the best lift around.  They’re also more maneuverable, and naturally shameless about using auxiliary power whenever it suits their purpose.  Clearly not intimidated, they tolerate us in their airspace as they do other birds, so we’re privileged to soar with them as with each other.  They always out-fly us of course.

At our moderate speeds the possibility of collision with birds would be near zero even if we tried to hit them, because they’re too quick.  Like everything else in the sky however, it can happen, so eventually it will.  In countless hours of soaring with birds my one strike seemed itself a matter of heartrending kismet, some karmic due to be fulfilled whether we chose to participate or not.  We were ridge soaring forth and back on a small hill, occasionally passing the doomed hawk from ahead or behind, either direction.  It glanced over each time, but otherwise ignored us as they always do.  Then an eagle joined in and we enjoyed three shows for the price of none.

Soon we were overtaking them both at once, so to preclude any conflict I pitched over and swerved right to pass between them and the ridge.  As we rolled level the hawk dove crazily from behind on our left to ahead on our right – and got smacked by the wing full on.  I was looking ten o’clock low at the nearest ground ahead and saw it hit.  Broken in half and held together by its skin, the carcass spun straight down like a maple seed.  

While we were still catching our breath the eagle dove to that spot, collected its lunch and perched in a treetop to eat.  Afterward it came back up to soar with us again, all well in the world.

I’ll always wonder if our intrusion distracted the hawk and gave that eagle an advantage it could never refuse.  Eagles don’t typically hunt hawks, with so much other game that’s easier to acquire.  But everyone appreciates a free meal.

In any case, what could we do but solemnly exult in being witness to a timeless natural process?  Back on earth, I touched the finite nicks from broken bones in our leading edge as scars on my own astral body, caressing them with the fleshy claw of fingertips to absorb what I could of a fallen fellow avian’s spirit and magic.  Nothing else to due.