Sunday, July 9, 2017

A Few Quotes from "H is for Hawk"

I just finished Helen Macdonald's 2014 memoir H is for Hawk. I realize I'm a little behind in reading and writing about it but I found a few quotes especially meaningful. Macdonald is a falconer living in England. She writes about raising and training a goshawk, her father's recent death, and the life and writing of author and fellow falconer, T.H. White.

The book is reflective, informative, and unique. And I wanted to write down a few quotes.

The first refers to Macdonald's conclusion that she cannot live as her goshawk. In her grieving process, she wishes to seclude herself, find insight and comfort, and vicariously live out the life of her hawk, Mabel:
“In my time with Mabel I’ve learned how you feel more human once you have known, even in your imagination, what it is like to be not. And I have learned, too, the danger that comes in mistaking the wildness we give a thing for the wildness that animates it. Goshawks are things of death and blood and gore, but they are not excuses for atrocities. Their inhumanity is to be treasured because what they do has nothing to do with us at all” (p. 275).
The second quote is less central to the thesis of the memoir but rather focuses more so on how we perceive the world and, in particular, our perception of our historical roots as it relates to our given geographical place and home. Given our political climate, her words ring especially true:
“Old England is an imaginary place, a landscape built from words, woodcuts, films, paintings, picturesque engravings. It is a place imagined by people, and people do not live very long or look very hard. We are very bad at scale. The things that live in the soil are too small to care about; climate change too large to imagine. We are bad at time, too. We cannot remember what lived here before we did; we cannot love what is not. Nor can we imagine what will be different when we are dead. We live out our three score and ten, and tie our knots and lines only to ourselves. We take solace in pictures, and we wipe the hills of history” (p. 265).

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