A modern sailplane can glide more efficiently than any raptor, but that’s our only advantage.  All birds’ instincts are essentially flawless, and we can assume that a circling hawk marks the best lift around.  Seemingly never intimidated, they tolerate us in their airspace, making it our privilege to soar with them as with each other.  Except they always out-fly us of course, being far more maneuverable and shameless about using auxiliary power whenever it suits their purpose.

Possibility of collision with most birds would be near zero even if we tried to hit them, because they’re too quick for our moderate speeds and slower response.  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 red-tail from ahead or behind, either direction.  It glanced over each time, but otherwise ignored us like always.  Then an eagle joined in and we had three splendid shows for the price of none.  

Soon it developed that we were overtaking them both at once, so to preclude any conflict I pitched over and swerved 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 happened to be looking two o’clock, at the nearest ground ahead, and witnessed the impact.  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 what impelled the hawk to do something so unpredictable and self-destructive.  Could it have been fleeing an attack?  Eagles don’t typically hunt hawks, with so much other game that’s easier to acquire, but nearly everyone appreciates a free meal.  

In any case, what could we do but solemnly exult in being part of 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.  


This coming Friday, Saturday and Sunday might be the three warmest days of the year so far, with balmy westerlies and increasing cumulus as the weekend goes on, We should all feel sorry for folks who like to complain about the weather…


While a warming trend will accompany the official beginning of spring, high pressure may suppress thermal activity on Friday and Saturday.  But flow from the northeast may also raise the possibility of more bow wave.  Then on Sunday, the warmest of this period, pressure lowering throughout the day may allow for stronger and higher thermals, and probably not a cloud in sight.


One of my longest flights ever was so easy I’m almost embarrassed to claim it, especially as I didn’t do much of the actual stick and rudder.  It was Abe’s first cross-country, with me smoothing scratchy spots, taking pictures and having a grand time.  

We turned two hundred miles out laughably quick, then halfway home our one speed bump summoned the flight’s only crucial decision.  We had to climb before going on, but options nearby weren’t good.  When I suggested tentative retreat Abe said why not try one last puny wisp another mile ahead.  

I had already considered that but discarded the idea.  The cloud we were under looked better, and it wasn’t working.  My retreat might cost an hour as it is, and failing under his little cu could only further jeopardize the finish.  

One angel lobbied hard for ignoring input from any first timer.  The other asked what if Abe’s right?  He is a friggin’ scientist after all, and twice as smart as me in general!  Dismissing his initiative without at least a nod could be real dumb.  So…  

“Okay, let’s give it a try.”  

Not exactly a boomer, but it kept us moving in the right direction, and that’s what mattered!   One angel smirked, the other smiled.  Soon we were topped out and highballing again, home so early we could have blown right on by under a perfect cloud street another fifty miles.  Gliding back from there would make Abe’s first cross-country a 500-miler!  But achieving our stated goal had rendered him numb from the neck down already, and he was anxious to put feet on the ground again.  

Privately thinking, ‘Suck it up Perfesser’, I discreetly urged we roar on for another half hour anyway just ‘cause the lift was so stupid good… but he wasn’t buying.  He had pre-paid for the whole day however, and should have what he wanted and so well deserved.          

Honors for the right idea at the perfect time go to the estimable Dr. A. himself.  Credit me for simply respecting his opinion.  That extra hundred miles wasn’t lost, by the way.  It never existed except as something more to do next time.