On First Meeting a Majestic Goshawk
A short scuffle, and then out of the gloom, her grey crest raised and her barred chest feathers puffed up into a meringue of aggression of fear, came a huge old female goshawk. Old because her feet were gnarled and dusty. Her eyes a deep, fiery orange, and she was beautiful. Beautiful like a granite cliff or a thunder-cloud. She completely filled the room. She had a massive back of sunbleached grey feathers, was as muscled as a pit bull, and intimidating as hell, even to staff who spent their days tending eagles. So wild and spooky and reptilian. Carefully, we fanned her great, broad wings as she snaked her neck round to stare at us, unblinking. Then she turned her head to stare straight at me. Locked her eyes on mine down her curved black beak, black pupils fixed. Then, right then, it occurred to me that this goshawk was bigger than me and more important. And much, much older: a dinosaur pulled from the Forest of Dean. There was a distinct, prehistoric scent to her feathers; it caught in my nose, peppery, rusty as storm-rain.
From H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald, 2015; Photo by Craig Flatten
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