The Hiker and the Hawk

When light and shade reach a high contrast, the heat burns the weeds, and the pebbles crackle under the soles of the boots of a young ornithologist, his face and arms tanned by a merciless desert sun, hiking on a dry trail. A couple of hours ago, he was walking along a canyon pass among chestnut trees and plants of broad leaves to track and, if opportunity presented itself, catch the Long-tailed Sylph, a unique species of hummingbird. How did he get off the path and find himself in this hot valley?

With the palm of his hand, the man wipes his sweaty forehead. He is enjoying the experience, though – the distant hills, the yellow fields, the green cacti with their fruit turned red, the sound of his steps… But how did he get here? The Blue Skimmer did it! In his mind, he sees again, emerging from a stream, right at the edge of the path, an unusually long, blue insect. It turns around, and a white, doll-like face stares at him: “I’m a sylph, and in our world, we protect each other. Leave the little bird alone.” The wind brings the words to his ears as the insect flaps its wings. At that moment, a jet of air blows his way, and he feels transported by it. And now, here he is, hiking on a dusty trail.

He is trying to find his way around when a big bird, standing on top of a solitary cactus, draws his attention. It’s a hawk. The ornithologist walks closer to the bird. What might a bird of prey see in me? It clenches its claws tightly. He appreciates the bird’s elongated body, dark brown feathers, sharp hooked beak, and strong claws. Slowly, he advances ever closer to the bird, gripping the leather straps of his backpack, and he sees blood stains on its chest. He stops and stands on the edge of the trail, in front of the hawk, which now adopts a haughty and defiant pose. Its beak also appears to be blood-stained. He hates what he is seeing: the hawk has trapped a white dove, which is bleeding to death in its claws. The Blue Skimmer appears again, flapping in the air between him and the big bird: “Give up your hunt. Look what’s happening to the dove.” A gentle breeze brings these words to him.

Much to learn, the hiker reflects, feeling shaken, and appeals to his intuition to chart his course.


José L Recio

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