} Your question, devoid of words, says little. Too bad, for I am
} omniscient, and know all. In lieu of revealing to you the time and
} place of the horrid car-crash which will kill you, I instead shall
} put forth a parable, that you may ponder your place relative to
} free, soaring spirits:
} Throughout my flying carrer I've had lots of experiences
} flying with the big birds, and the thing that I find
} most fascinating about it is, that in most cases, the hawk
} or eagle seems to regard me as one of them. It's like
} going on a wild animal safari, jumping out of the jeep and
} hunting prey with the lions. I'm in thier world, not
} just looking at them from the other side of a fence.
} I've seen red-tails look right at my face from just beyond
} my outside tip as we circle together in a thermal,
} and they seem to be aware that the thing that's in control
} of that big bird is one of those things that normaly
} walks around on two legs.
} I've seen a group of young red-tails line up single file on
} the edge of a soarbable knoll, and one by one,
} stand still, stretch thier wings out to full span, and then
} take three or four steps down the hill on thier claws
} and launch, just like hang gliders. True story! They were
} imitating hang gliders!
} A few years ago in, in the late fall, I was soaring at Ft.
} Funston on a smooth, buoyant straight westerly day.
} Just over the golf course, I noticed one of the locals
} (red-tailed hawk) parked over the trees at my altitude,
} probably looking for lunch. ( I believe biologists refer to
} this maneuver as "kiting" ). Anyway, I
} approached the hawk from the north and as I got closer I
} noted that it was looking sideways at me, but
} showed no intention of moving. I guessed that it had been
} around enough hang gliders in its carrer that it
} wasn't bothered with my presence. I got close enough so that
} as I did a gentle 180 away from it, my outside
} tip came to within a few feet of it. My intent was to
} convince the hawk to forget about lunch for a few
} minutes and to come and play me with me. I looked back
} after rolling out of the turn and, as I had hoped,
} there was my red-tailed buddy, following me. I cruised
} north to the end of the bowl in front of the golf
} course and began a slow roll back to the south. Keeping
} formation, the hawk began to turn just as I did, so
} that when we'd both rolled out, I was following him (her?).
} As we came upon the south end of the bowl, she
} began to roll back to the north, which I mimicked, so that
} she was again following me.
} We repeated this routine several times, creating, as far as
} I knew, the world's first impromptu avian/ human
} arieal ballet. I was amazed at the connection I had made
} with this untamed animal.
} After several minutes of this, my new flying buddy
} remembered that she was hungry, broke our formation,
} and headed back to her original "kiting" spot. Since I
} wasn't ready to stop playing yet, I climbed just a bit
} higher than her, turned just a bit downwind, rolled out and
} lined up on her six-o-clock and passed about 3
} feet over her head. During this close pass, she never
} altered her position, and her head movements
} indicated that she was alternating between scanning the
} ground just below her, and attempting to look up
} and behind her as I approached from her six-o-clock high. I
} noted that it was difficult for her to twist her
} neck enough to see above or behind her.
} I have learned that biologists try not anthropomorphisize
} animal behavior; that is to say; to not interpret an
} animals behavior or motivation as anything resembling our
} own. However, I'm sure that my red-tailed
} friend must have found my close passes to be a good comprise
} of her need to search for lunch and a
} desire to clown around with me. I made several of these
} passes, with my basetube passing as close as 3 feet
} over her back (upper fuselage, torso?) , and she never
} The temptation was too much. I knew that my friend would
} soon spot a tasty, warm, writhing mammal in the
} trees and dive for lunch, or another hang glider would come
} along and break up our party. I had an
} opportunity to do what non-pilots can't even dream about.
} I had to do it.
} On my final pass, I started my run just a little bit lower.
} The wind was straight west at about 20 mph. Our sink
} rates were almost exactly the same in the buoyant ridge-
} lift. I pulled in just a bit, increasing my closure rate
} to a still dream-like 2 mph. Time stretched, warmed to a
} diffused glow. The hawks attentions were no
} longer half-focused on the ground. She tried to looked up
} over her back, at me. Wings twisting in smooth
} correction of airspeed, to match mine. Closure rate almost
} imperceptible. Her wings now directly under
} me, one foot below my basetube.
} I reached down with my right hand and lightly tapped her on
} the back.
} A sudden realization must have come over the hawk, like when
} a puppy and a kitten play with each other,
} then realize that thier instincts tell them that it's not
} the way thier supposed to behave.
} As I passed in front of her, she rolled to the right,
} almost ninety degrees, and perfunctorily extended her
} talons. It wasn't a panicked or frightened gesture, but more
} like the hawk body-language equivalent of
} "It's been fun, but if my mate catches me fooling around
} with you, you're in big trouble. So, leave...now, or
} my instincts will force me to tear through your Oakley
} Factory Pilot Eyeshades and scratch your eyes out!"
} So I left.
} I headed back to launch ...back to the world of humans, and
} thought about what I'd done. Oh, sure, it was a
} beautiful thing, and I could have kept my hands to myself.
} But maybe I was doing just what the writer of
} "High Flight" had suggested. To "slip the surly bonds of
} earth...reach out a hand, and touch the face
} (back?) of God."