Friday, September 24, 2004

Kate and I visited my parents yesterday, which is always entertaining and bizarre. Life there definitely revolves around animals, and human daily activities simply must adjust themselves to the dictates of the beasts. I have long thought that this may be why people, particularly children, who grow up with and live around animals often possess more than the common measure of decency. They grow accustomed to things which cannot be changed by force or by reason, and look for solutions to difficulties in their own behavior. For when your dog or your falcon is causing trouble, it is usually due to some impatience or negligance of your own.

Philosophy aside, though, it's all a lot of fun. I can be amused all afternoon sitting and drinking wine in the kitchen with the Harris hawk, or in the living room with the gyrfalcon, watching them ruffle their feathers, stretch their wings, put a foot up a have a nap, wake up and look around. It's like having your own pet dinosaur. Giving them baths is one of the best shows in the world; they hop into the pan of water, fluff out their feathers, and proceed to flap and splash and delightedly make an immense mess. We had one once who even liked to be watered with the hose. My mother thought it greatly entertaining and would soak the bird to the skin, and when she'd give him a break he'd give a sweet and expectant look, obviously a polite request: "More please."

The best moments, however, are watching the birds and dogs interact. They definitely speak different languages, but it's clear that they're trying to communicate. The tazis will crouch low and squeak; the falcon will turn his head upside down. Sometimes the birds will even chase the dogs around and pull their tails. God knows where they get it, but they have some sense that they're on the same team, friends in an odd friendship. The world of beasts is not after all so completely hawk-eat-dog as most people are eager to assume.

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