Monthly Archives: October 2012

The Austringer’s Lament

A call sounds out, and the Goshawk draws himself up to attention – he knows what it means.  That is the crow of a cock pheasant, a noise that signals autumn, the countryside and, in our case, the hunt.  His eyes, always scathing with orange fire, sharpen further.  We follow the sound and as we do he tenses, waiting.

Our quarry comes into view ahead of us, heads down and oblivious to our arrival.  I take a few hurried steps, but the Goshawk is impatient.  To wait any longer might give our position away, as my footfalls are far noisier than the hush of a predator’s wingbeats.   Pushing off my glove, he explodes into action.  He arrows towards the birds and they don’t even look up as he glides towards them, wings held still, trying for ultimate stealth.  He’s a grey ghost, a phantom; he’s death itself in winged form.

At the last moment, the pheasants see him.  They flush noisily and head for the nearest cover.  The Goshawk sees this and takes a new tactic.  He’s an old bird, canny with experience.  Instead of pursuing in a straight line, he suddenly arcs high above them.  Turning, he dives, stoops like a falcon, into the cover where they have just put in.  His impact makes the foliage shudder and I’m already running, anticipating a kill.

But before I can take more than five steps, there are birds leaping into the air again. First the red-brown cock birds and dull-tan hens, then the steel grey of the Goshawk.  He hadn’t managed to connect, or hold, in the cover, and my heart sinks.  He’s too far behind, and both of us know he won’t catch up.  He glides down into the field, defeated.  I bring out the lure, and whistle.

Within moments he’s returning to me.  I take a moment to simply watch his approach, to find myself the object of his burning gaze.  It’s unsettling in a way that makes my heart leap and my lips curve in a smile.  I swing the lure up to meet his outstretched talons and he takes this, at least, to ground in a tight grip.

I can feel his frustration, I can read it in his stance, his repeated footing of the lure, so I make in slowly for the trade off.  After a moment of tension, the Goshawk is sat on my glove again and I know that will be the last flight of the morning, as our stolen hour of dawn before I have to work comes to an end.  His meal today will not be the hot fresh meat he craves, but he tears into what I offer without hesitation.

Sometimes the hunter loses the hunt, this is the austringer’s lament, but there will be other quarry.  Flights like the one I witnessed, however, are beautiful and unique.  I have never felt more alive, more aware of my surroundings and also a part of that very landscape than when I pursue wild quarry with a trained predator.  This is what the Goshawk was born to do, and I’m just a privileged spectator he deigns to allow to assist him.

Autumn Awakening

The summer seems to deaden my creativity, only to reawaken this time of year. I’d blame it on the sunshine baking my brains, only this was the wettest summer on record so no help there. As soon as the mornings start to get that sharp chill and the mustiness of dead leaves rise like smoke through the air, that’s when I begin to itch for a blank document. I also start knitting a lot, but that might be more about self-preservation in my cold house than anything else.  It’s an exciting time of year to be a falconer as well, and the Goshawk is coming down in weight in preparation for the hunting season.  Autumn is definitely my favourite time of year, and I thrive best in it.

In particular, I’m gearing up to write a new novel. If I can carry out this project to its potential it will be the best novel I have written, as well as the most adult piece of writing I have ever accomplished. By “adult” I’m not meaning the subject matter, nor genre of what I’m intending to produce; this will be the first novel that represents me, the writer, as an adult.

I feel that all my previous novels have been trapped in my childish psyche, small attempts at adventuring in a world of make-believe. I’m not saying I will abandon Fantasy as a genre, but I won’t be defining myself by it, either. Those novels have certainly represented me in a way, but not as a whole, merely one facet of me. This will attempt to be all of me, both ugly and fair, in a way I’ve never accomplished before.

It’s a terrifying concept, as exposing as taking off your clothes in a room of strangers. And it’s as visceral as a knife in the stomach, spilling out entrails across sheets of virgin white paper. This is not a comfortable endeavour, but it will force out very good writing and I won’t be able to hold back as I have in the past.

I’m starting from a concept this time, and in fact I’ve taken inspiration from a poem which makes the part of me which thrilled in completing my degree in English Literature crow aloud. This will be a work that can stand up to literary criticism, though I shudder to define it by the “literary” genre. In a lot of ways it’s easier to write from a concept, instead of a plot or character, because depth is already present whereas in the past I have spent a lot of time trying to search out (or fabricate) meaning in a meaningless romp. In a lot of ways it’s also a lot harder because I have so many choices to make, characters and situations to build out of a nebulous concept. Not to mention how much I desperately want this to be finally, finally something I can be proud of.

No pressure, right?

Currently I’m just trying to get my thoughts in order, and this post has helped me. However, apart from research, I will be mainly avoiding the internet while pursuing this venture. I wonder if there have been studies done to prove how much general productivity among first world nations has dropped since the invention of Facebook and other social networking sites. I’m also not allowed to turn on my television, expect if I’m really good I might be allowed to watch Star Trek: TNG at 7pm tonight as a reward!  To help me be productive, I’ve also finally got our second bedroom made into a study, with the judicious placement of a patio table as a “desk”.  I think this will help me a lot, as I need a space that can be set away from the distractions of the rest of the house in order to think more clearly.

Right now I’m mainly trying to formulate a story out of this concept, or at least a persuasive character at the centre of my narrative. I forsee many long walks with the dog while  I try to work these things out. I love my concept, and I adore the poem in which I found it, so hopefully the forward momentum from that will carry me forward. I realise I sound a bit cryptic not going into specifics, but that’s just necessary at this stage in my writing so don’t ask for too many details unless you’re happy to be disappointed!

I’m going to go and disappear from the internet now and listen to the calls of stags in rut as they roar from across the fields, the pheasants in the cover and the wind rattling through the dying leaves. This is a good time to start something new, when things are in motion for a changing season. I’m ready to explore the limits of my creativity, my mind and my recurring carpal tunnel syndrome!  Wish me luck!