Tag Archives: writing

H is for Hawk

I don’t normally read books about death and loss, something that comes all too often the older one gets. And mostly I don’t normally read them because all too often they seem insipid, skating across the surface of grief instead of plumbing its depths, holding it close, looking it in the eye. I find it hard to connect with them.

Not so this book.

H is for Hawk is really two stories in one. The main story, compelling and moving, is of Helen Macdonald’s struggle to move through and beyond her overwhelming grief after her father dies suddenly. The secondary story, threaded throughout the first, is her recounting of T.H. White’s failed efforts, some 60 years earlier, to train a goshawk. White I knew as the author of Arthurian novels, The Once and Future King most of all. I had known nothing of goshawks before now.

“Looking for goshawks is like looking for grace: it comes, but not often, and you don’t get to say when or how.”

Helen and her father shared a deep love of nature. As a child, she became enamored of  hawks and falcons, reading every book about them she could get her hands on. At the age of twelve, she pleaded with her parents to go out with a group of falconers, and they agreed. It was her first experience with hawks in the field. Over the years, she became an expert in hawking and falconry. After her father’s death, she decided to buy a goshawk and train it because she came to believe it would help ease her pain.

“But that was not why I needed her. To me she was bright, vital, secure in her place in the world. Every tiny part of her was boiling with life, as if from a distance you could see a plume of steam around her, coiling and ascending and making everything around her slightly blurred, so she stood out in fierce, corporeal detail. The hawk was a fire that burned my hurts away. There could be no regret or mourning in her. No past or future. She lived in the present only, and that was my refuge.”

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I am still learning

Last month, I attended a fabulous seminar at the National Gallery of Art on how to truly open our eyes so that we see and absorb more. Afterwards, I found in the museum gift shop this terrific magnet that now adorns my fridge and that I read every single day:

"I am still learning." Michelangelo

“I am still learning.” Michelangelo

When the September Sisters in Crime newsletter came out, asking us to blog about (among other things) what the best part of the writing process is for each of us, that is exactly what I thought of.

The best part of writing is that I am still learning.

I’m learning patience, because even though my professional career has centered around writing and editing for more years than I care to admit, I am still learning the craft of writing because now I’m writing fiction and not non-fiction. Don’t misunderstand me: the skills I’ve built on the job are a definite plus and help enormously. But writing fiction is different—oh, so very different! And it isn’t something that’s mastered in a day or a week or a month or a year. I’ve learned to extend the timeline of my expectations.

I’m learning openness, because being a writer also means understanding social media and how to reach out, Continue reading

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What do you see? What do you miss?

I had a fantastic opportunity today, the chance to experience a workshop about perception. To think about what it is that we see, what it is that we don’t see, and how to communicate all that to others.

I spent the day at an art museum, listening to an art historian talk about perceptions—about how and what each of us will see and pick up in a painting or a photograph or a sculpture—and about what it is we miss and why we miss it.

For example (and this is not a drawing we looked at today but it illustrates the concept), what do you see here? Continue reading

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