Misty and quiet. Nothing seemingly. White grey cloud muffles, the breeze does little to stir the scene. The woods are a spectacular tangle of leafless branches, but the lift and the soar is lacking. It feels like nothing is happening. We go through the motions: take up station opposite the nest site under Yat Rock…the minutes drift; the moment drags; we used up our luck almost exactly a year ago at the same spot in a phrase lifted from J.A.Baker on ‘A day made absolute’ – floating, shining spider trails, moments of total peace and a final drama: ‘Then from the north along the ridge a tiercel appears, wings flicking rhythmically against the breeze. Purposeful. I have him in my binoculars as he overturns the smooth slope, the wings close, the speed slides upward, effortlessly. For a moment he becomes like the falling heart and it lasts and lasts (and now I replay and replay it in my mind) until the trees flash past – impossibly long seconds – certain disaster, then a flick and the moment is broken; the plunging ace flickers off like a bat and I lose him amongst the trees. A wordless exclamation comes through me like a bursting bubble.’ Unrepeatable I have no faith that last year’s lesson can be repeated or that I will be allowed to learn anything new.
Then a drawn out, wheezing call comes clear across the silence; it is joined by another and suddenly we are all looking. The lesson soars. A pigeon drifts laterally and morphs into the form we all seek. It is confirmed in a babble of excited voices as reflexed wingtips fling an arc across the white sky. The confidence of the bird swells the moment: a consummation for the first-timers. They have heard the words for weeks; now they can feel it for themselves as the portal opens briefly. Inactivity again, like the backwash of a wave. Stillness seaps with the cold before a flat glide rolls into a smooth sweep. Speed climbs. Like a hurled flat throw a hawk heads directly for the rock, it is impossibly, heart-stoppingly close before a nonchalant flick and a deadstop on the ledge. Again. Like last year.
I stare up at the rockface, and the ageless white statue of the peregrine. He has watched me come and he will watch me leave. and I learn, in a swift rush of understanding, that it will always be that way around. Foolishly I want him to end it, to fly away, to disappear and release me, but it is me that takes my leave.