Kith and kin
Flying off...

The wild sky

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A few weeks ago, a package came in the mail. Inside, beautifully wrapped in beautiful paper was a beautiful book. Beautiful. I keep using that word. It's the only word that will do. The book was from author and artist Jackie Morris, who lives on the coast of Wales, and it tells the tale of an injured peregrine falcon rescued by her friend and neighbor Ffion Rees.

Jackie explained the genesis of the book in an article for The Guardian: "Ffion is head skipper for a boat company. She had fished the bird out from the sea having witnessed her fall...Over the next few months my wonderful friend brought this sick bird back to health and then to flying fitness. With patience, care and love she worked, building trust until this wild thing would fly to her fist at a whistle. And all the time I watched and I drew and I painted her progress, from the sick bird in the kitchen to the free flying falcon, learning the shape and the color of the hawk."

I'm ending the week with Jackie's book because it brings together so many of the different things we've been talking about lately on Myth & Moor: the importance of wild country and wild creatures in our lives; the places we turn to for kith and kin; and the ways that those of us working in the arts can express our connection to the natural world, thereby helping young people (and old people too) to find their own connections, their own personal pathways into the wild.

"I came to Pembrokeshire for the love of a man," writes Jackie. "Then I fell in love with the land." She'd found her kith, and there she's been rooted ever since, with her paints and books and children and animals in a house by the sea.

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"Peregrines are simply mesmerizing," writes Nicola Davies in the book's introduction. "It's easy to be obsessed with such a creature.Reading J.A. Baker's book The Peregrine as a girl, I understood Baker's passion for the birds, his compulsion to follow and watch them. But I understood their meaning for him too: they were his conduit to the whole natural world, the living metaphor of the landscape and the seasons.

"We humans need to feel that connection. We need to feel the tug of the umbilical cord which ties us to the Earth. Through feeling it we connect better with each other just as babies learn to love through their first bond with their mother."

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"I have loved birds ever since I began, as a child, to notice these little people of the air around me," writes Jackie. "I would walk with my dad and he would tell me their names and show me how to find their secret, hidden nests. He took me to see Kes at the cinema when I was older, and then I found A Kestral for a Knave by Barry Hines, the book on which the film was based. Though I was slow to catch the knack of reading I loved stories and I made my way through this slim volume. The Once and Future King and The Goshawk by T.H. White held my imagination. If I ever thought of myself as an adult it was as one who lived alone in a cottage in a wood with a hawk and a hound and a horse for company.

"The curious geography of my mind is filled with tales of birds; trickster ravens, thieving magpies, women with fine slate feather cloaks who turn into falcons when they wrap their cloaks around them, and swan women. Birds have threaded their flight through the backgrounds of my books, from redwings in The Snow Whale to lapwings in The Cat and the Fiddle, as I painted in winter while outside my studio the stark, cold fields filled with lapwings."

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Queen of the Sky is a wonderful book (I confess it made me cry), weaving text, paintings, and photographs with wind and waves, feather and fur. It's a story about friendship -- between women, between species; and a story about the land, and love, and loss.

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Books, it seems to me, are very magical things. Smooth white paper, printed and bound, has lifted the wings of a Welsh peregrine and carried her here to the moorlands of Devon...and beyond, to places and people that will never otherwise witness the prayer of her flight. This, to me, is what art is for. It makes the world larger, and brighter, and wilder; and it tells our stories, human and nonhuman alike. 

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Queen of the Sky 6Related posts: "When Stories Take Flight: The Folklore of Birds"," Bowing to the Birds," "T.H. White: A Rescued Mind."

Comments

Terri, it feels a bit like you are in my heart and head this week. I too cried at this book; it speaks very deeply through words and pictures. Jackie's art often spurs me to make - in this case a falcon - because she seems to reach into the deeper places.

Why do we reach out to birds? I know flight is a great part of their fascination, to go where we cannot. But I feel they present us with more; the otherness, wildness, enigmas that we try so hard to unravel.

Jackie's book touches these things and sets up those questions. Your post is such a lovely meditation on this.

So very beautiful indeed - beautiful like the light sighing above a bird's wing, and the wild and wise shadow beneath. And I mean Jackie's words, your words, your photographs, and the whole spirit of the post. Beautiful.

The Day Birds

Wake up birds, sweet tweet, mild flapping,
Some circular trill, some cooing lightly,
Sun accompanies with scouring out
Shadows. Sleepy eyes open, lyrically.

Later, Robins skip and become
Plump, a rackety tweet, and like
Lacy brooches flitting away
From jewelry boxes, the
Hummingbirds come, quiver
And dart, or perhaps, like
Solid flowers, with legs
And beaks. Yellow and black
Birds I've never named,
And best of all, the bright
Meadowlark, flung up as if
From some fairyland gift
To sing the most charmed
Mix of bird and Vivaldi.

But Now It Is Dusk
The chirping birds fold
Their wings, like they
Have day jobs, and onto
Nests, while, from treetops
Tall building nests, rock
Ridges, red tailed hawks
Sail out and without sound,
And hunt. They are not
Professional and I can
Never cherish one, carry'
It blindfolded and then
Away from my arm up
High and looking for prey.

No, they are like Ravens
Who also steer like
Buccaneer ships high
In search of food. I can
Only stand and wish
I could in another life
Glide in cold wing,
Catch my prey, and
Feed nestlings, until
They wobble to the side
Of tenderly woven homes
And fly off into the future.

Every hawk is mind for
The small time I can watch
And think, when hidden
I have seen them. They
Are the wild side we need,
The pirate woman in me
The warrior, who can fly.

Mine, not mind.

HUNTING KESTRAL.

Hung on a thread of flight,
the world held
in the sweep of its wing;
Its head
A steady pivot
At the fulcrum's stillest point.

from here its hunting eye
can spy
the scuttle
And staccato
Of the running prey.

Then snaps the thread!
Then falls the crushing
weight of death!

And a corpse is carried off,
a loose-necked head
nodding and gyrating
a senseless
Syncopation
with the hunter's
beating wing.

So many beautiful words shared this morning about our winged brothers and sisters...thank you all! My thoughts are often on our winged friends, from the Barred Owl, Red-shouldered Hawk, and Carolina Wren (the king of the birds!) who spoke to me this morning to tucking Arlo the cockatiel into bed at night (he has shared my life for nearly 26 years).

Thank you all for your magical words, mental images, and glorious pictures.

Peregrine

I let him loose
with his sharp beak and wings
to circle the sky
and draw an outline for water,
a prayer loop for rain.

My hand waits
for his return, his tether
trailing into the hedges.
Their leaves molting,
their roots like talons

sunk deep in the ground
grasping for dampness,
the song of a river.

We are definitely on the same wavelength at the moment, Charlotte. Thank you for your lovely words.

Thank you so much, Sarah.

Phyllis, Stuart, and Wendy, thank you for the gift of these wild poems! (And my apologies for the hurried response. I'm half-way out the studio door.) I hope Jackie stops by and sees the poems too.

Cathi & Roberta, much appreciated!

And please feel free to carry on with conversations and poems while I'm away...I'll catch up with it all when I can.

such a beautiful book!

I want to be
improbable, beautiful
and afraid of nothing
as though I had wings.

"Starlings in Winter"
~Mary Oliver

This looks absolutely lovely. I've had a close encounter with a red tail, who did not return the admiration, but peregrines are a family favourite. A huge painting of a peregrine by Robert Verity Clem hung in my grandparent's living room. (Mine was a family of birders, although my id skills are rusty.)

I also spent two years crewing on a tour boat (day tours, call me Gilligan), so I can imagine this scenario. (Although the primary birds we saw were osprey.) Excited to read this.

Between yours,Jackie's and your commentors words and images there sounds such a harmony! Magical books and winged friends
abound in true beauty.Thank-you,as ever Terri.

Quick anecdote this made me remember: When I was pregnant with my second child, I often spotted a pair of hawks circling over the road I took to my teaching job. It felt auspicious, somehow, and then I started to see hawks and eagles elsewhere too. I began to think that maybe my child would be a winged creature, sharp and wild, and full of joy. Though I decorated his room in sea things, I felt I must place a bird somewhere in that space. And so I did. Now that I know him, I see less hawk and more Robin, which is his middle name. =)

Definitely adding this book to my to-read list. Thank you! (And I hope your trip is off to a good start.)

So much here that is so beautiful. Thank you.

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