the tale of two books

books, reading, hawk, falconer

So I’m reading this book, H is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald, which is wonderfully written and interesting and beautiful, but it’s also breaking my heart. On the surface, the book is about a falconer and her exploits in training a goshawk for the first time, but it’s also about her grief after losing her father, and it’s also about the history of falconry, and it’s also about life. And so much of it is resonating with me just now.

Secretly, I’ve always wanted to be a falconer.

This book came to me on the heels of another highly-rated, highly recommended book, one I didn’t finish. I wanted to love The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo, (I mean, it even has the word magic in the title!) but about halfway through, when I got to the point where she suggests getting rid of most of your books and putting the rest on a shelf in the closet, I stopped reading. Because, you know, books deserve a place of honor.

Even before that point I’d begun to feel like the book wasn’t for me, her approach is very extreme, and while I am interested in the “less stuff, more tidy” philosophy, I will never be the person who comes home each day and follows a strict routine of putting this there and that here in this order, in this amount of time, in the same exact way every day.

I’m the person who will drop everything on the kitchen table to go write down an idea before I forget. Or the one who wears her coat into the studio to check for email from clients and realizes thirty minutes later that I still have my coat on, or the one who will drop everything to rush outside and watch a hawk circling overhead.

I wish I could be more like Marie Kondo, but I can’t, and I’m old enough to accept this. And so, I stopped reading her book. And that’s not to say I don’t think it has value, she has a lot of good ideas and I may implement some of them, but, to use her own words, it just did not “spark joy” in me. I let her book go, along with my hopes for a tidier life.

I’m messy. I will always be messy. Life will always be messy.

With H is for Hawk, while I am loving the book and falling in love with a bird, I’m letting go of something else. A dream.

I’d never really thought about the details of falconry. Of course I knew there had to be raw meat involved–which would pose a problem for me from the get-go–but what I hadn’t ever really considered was the most basic of facts. Being a falconer means holding a bird captive. I know, it’s silly that I never thought about this aspect, it’s so obvious, but I’d only ever thought of how thrilling it would be to hold a hawk on your arm, to have it fly away and return to that very same spot. How fabulous.

But I could never do the captivity thing. I couldn’t do that to a bird whose very freedom to soar is the thing I most love and admire. I can’t even go to the zoo, because it breaks my heart.

With this realization, I let go of my dream to be a falconer.

More and more often, I find myself letting go. Of books I have no desire to finish, dreams I have no compunction to follow, and things I have no use for. I like to think that means I’m opening up space for other pursuits, and perhaps that’s the truth. I’d also like to think it means I’m getting wiser.

I’ll never stop loving hawks. I’ll also never have a perfectly tidy house. And I’m okay with that.

Someday, if I’m lucky, perhaps I will find a way to hold someone else’s hawk on my arm, just once. But if not, I’m okay with that, too.

I’ll still be who I am, messy and grounded and a little bit dreamy.

I’ll still have words to take me high into the sky.

I’ll still have my own version of wings.



.So tell me, what are you reading lately?


4 Responses to “the tale of two books”

  • Pepper Martin Says:

    Beautifully written, as always. I laughed out loud when you were talking about sitting for thirty minutes with your coat on because you got caught up on in your email because that is in fact exactly my situation at the moment!

  • Amy Says:

    There is so much beauty and wisdom in this. I love having friends who are a decade or two ahead of me in life, who are reaching places in themselves that haven’t even occurred to me yet–I learn so much from you, and even if I’m not yet at a place where I am able to let go of things that don’t serve me, it’s encouraging to watch you do it with such grace and joy. And maybe I will get there sooner than I would otherwise, if I did not have your example to guide me. Because I recognize the truth of this even now, and even though letting go is something I have struggled with all my life. Your version of wings is always the best one for you, and that’s all that matters. <3

  • Elizabeth W Says:

    I love this post. You’ve hit on something so current with me that I absolutely relate. Tidiness, simplicity, letting go – all part of a journey I’ve been on lately. A while back I found myself with such a load of possessions that I was slowly being crushed to death. A long journey later and little by little my wee home has become a manageable, comfortable place to be. Not always tidy – and the bookshelves are full, but it has been a lesson in letting go of not only “stuff” but some of the connections related to some of that stuff. Some of the books and blogs about this were very helpful guidelines – some were not even close.
    Once I went to a falconer’s show, and got to hold, and launch and catch one of those beautiful birds. It was amazing. There were falcons, and hawks and even a golden eagle. Breathtaking. I agree about the birds being captive, but I was thrilled, none-the-less to be that up-close and personal with them. I hope you get to go to one sometime.

  • Kathryn Dyche Dechairo Says:

    Have you read Wesley The Owl, by Stacey O’Brien? It’s a really interesting read.

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