Up–pause. Up, up–pause–Up, up. Until many hops later, aloft on blue silent heaven, aloft where even the wind made no sound because there was nothing for it to sigh upon–she bobbed buoyant as a cork atop an out-of-breath windgusher. Feeling its warmbreaths fall away into the cool dregs of sky, she tipped her wings so she could spiral atop the expended wind, slowly widening her flight into descending circles. She saw how unusually high she was, because–
The curving river below was a shining line, smaller than she had ever seen it.
Far away east, she saw a band of redmen toiling on the ground, towing a string of horses. They were coming slowly toward her river. It was unusual to see them coming from the east and bringing horses, but it did not frighten her. Redmen came and went over the land disturbing nothing. More often she saw a new kind of two-legged being, men with white, hairy faces, men who disturbed everything. Worse, they carried thundersticks that blasted creatures from earth and sky. Mostly the red and whitemen hunted each other, and not falcons. But she had been alive seven seasons and the whitemen were coming with each sunrise as steadily as streams of ants.
The pigeonblood tasted good on her beak and now the hot-flying strength poured into her. This was the way of all things, to pour into one another. One day her own strength might be consumed into that of the silent nightkiller, the owl. Then the big-head-on-two-legs might one day be consumed by the howldogs. Nothing lived forever. She had seen death many times with her blueblack eyes. Yet every new day warm life floated down from the blue sky onto the great green domes of earth.
The falcon circled the twin panoramas of blue silent sky father above, and the great green mother below. Again she watched the toiling redmen.
They moved closer towards her bend in the river, but that did not disturb her. They never harmed her nest, and when her mate returned all would be well. She relaxed on the highwind feeling its exultation. Never was there any need to fly this high merely in search for food. This knowing of the blue dome–from where Yahee threw down the first birds and all other dream into the green world where they became real–this was the thrill lower creatures would never know. This was another of her secrets: the joy on the wind.
Looking up, nothing but the sun flew above her.
The windsinger shrilled her air-splitting shriek: “Keiiieeey-eeeeeeerk!”
Creatures on the ground froze, because her voice flew everywhere at once. When nothing happened–they relaxed again. And the gray falconess gazed down upon her world again.
The redmen were approaching from sun’s nest, the far mountains of the dry brown land. Now they crossed the long fingers of hills and valleys that led to her valley. Why did they come? Why did they pull a long string of horses?
She looked where the sun falls at the day’s end into pinefeathered mountains reaching all the way to the ocean. Now she knew her mate was gone far too long. It was time to search for his body.
She sailed high over the river where emerald pines leaned across silver banks giving the water its rich color. When she wished it, her magnificent eyes magnified everything to double their size.
Gray rabbits scurried and posed; a few timid deer drank deep, looked up, water dripping from black muzzles; a grizzly bear flattened on a gray slab lay sunning himself, bouncing with hiccups, looking at shadows in the water, dreaming. Perhaps they all once knew, perhaps they had forgotten. Perhaps they had lost their flying in the great becoming and unbecoming of all of all the animals. All at once the lower animals left the river in silence –and they were hurrying.
She ignored them. She studied every cliff for a shadow of the familiar browngold shape.
Again she heard the “Choof! Choof!” but this time much closer than before. Seconds later the force of shockwaves slapped her wings sending needles into her stomach, spreading into her wings, and she grew weak. Instinct drove her into a mindless attack dive.
Now! Scatter all enemies with flaming flight!
Bluejays shrieked, squirrels warbled, deer scurried, bears waddled–all hurrying away. She could see everything–everything except her browngold mate–and now she saw feathers floating down the river.
Sometimes the river carried feathers.
Hawk, owl, pigeon, jay; geese, duck, eagle, swallow. Never falcon. Any of these she could knock from the sky when the sun was high at her back and they never saw her coming from the wild eye of the sun. None matched her matchless wings. None reached her blinding speed of invisibility. Swooping across the river she saw it floating on the water below, and now the weakness that had poisoned her stomach and wings entered her womb.
Browngold feathers floated down the river–so now that life was ended.
Instinct told her to fly to the cliffs. But when she saw them coming from the mountains, the tree-smashers, the hairyfaces riding horses and carrying thundersticks in their arms, coming towards her cliffs and coming towards her eggs–hot rage filled her. She flew up and then tipped her body downward. She attacked.
She screamed from the sky, “Screeee-iirk!”
A man raised his stick, and she saw and heard–flash-cloud-choof! A spray of hornets streaked past her and she knew instantly what had happened to her mate and why he would never return again.
She veered wildly west beating fast towards the green mountain deeps as if death now pursued her darkly as a flying shadow. The joy on the wind was over.