Is it by your understanding that the hawk soars and spreads his wings toward the south? Job 39:26
My husband, Glen, turned sixty recently. I know that gifts of stuff don’t impress him. If he wants something, he will buy it himself and make sure it is exactly what he wants. I’ve learned that what he likes best are experiences, especially if they involve animals. That’s why the anniversary that we went swimming with the dolphins is among his fondest memories. As are the time we played with a tiger cub, sledded with a dog team, and petted a porcupine. I read about the perfect gift in the alumni magazine for Furman University and arranged for an experience he would remember. We dashed away between the time the doctor told me I could return to work part time and the date of my release from care. We had a lot to celebrate: our 36th wedding anniversary, successful knee surgery, publication of my fourth book, and we had a lot to recover from: my surgery, family illnesses, the death of my horse and the stress of living life with the boomerang generation. I splurged on reservations at the Sourwood Inn, also owned by the Furman graduate featured in the magazine article. A few miles off the Blue Ridge Parkway at 3200 feet elevation, above Asheville, North Carolina, the inn is a place to unplug from everything. I did not think to ask when I made the reservation, but there was no television, no Internet and limited cell phone service. Glen was taken aback at first, but soon came to enjoy the solitude. When we weren’t exploring Asheville or Weaverville, the nearest town, we sat on the balcony of our room, felt the mountain breeze, watched the clouds change the colors of the mountains and listened to the birds sing. On the last day of our short vacation, we met Jeff Curtis, class of 1986, at his outfitter store in Weaverville and followed him home to meet his hawks. The surprise was the opportunity to fly a pair of hawks and have them land on our arms. We were both impressed with Jeff’s knowledge of birds and his care for his two Harris’ Hawks, Sam and Hoppy. While recognizing their wildness, Jeff loves his birds. After learning about the sport of falconry, we walked to a field where Jeff demonstrated how to raise our hands and call the bird. Every time one of the hawks landed on my arm, it took my breath away. As I exhaled and stroked its soft breast feathers, I told him how beautiful he was. That an animal of that strength and intelligence would chose to come to me was humbling. They were so magnificent and wise; it was an honor to be able to work with them. If we were younger, we might consider a new sport, but as it is, we will have to admire from afar. As we left, Glen said, “I think that was even better than swimming with the dolphins,” and I knew I chose the right gift for him.