In her best-selling 2015 book “H is for Hawk,” Helen Macdonald wrote about training a goshawk after her father’s death. Now a new Nature special, “H is for Hawk: A New Chapter,” follows Macdonald as she trains a new bird and also observes goshawk chicks in the wild. The show airs Wednesday on PBS stations around the country.
Macdonald joins Here & Now‘s Robin Young to talk about the special.
On what makes goshawks special
“They’re just transformative. I describe them at one point, I think, as a cross between a leopard and a dragon. You know, they’re these creatures from myth wrought in, you know, bones and feathers with these staring orange eyes and talons. I mean, they’re as near to a dragon as you can get in in real life. And yeah, as soon as you bring a goshawk into a room, the room stops being a domestic space and becomes somewhere much colder and wilder.”
On going on to train another goshawk as “a new person”
“So people sometimes have read my book and they meet me, and I can see the fear in their eyes as they come up to me as if, you know, I’m this kind of terrifyingly dark and gothic creature. I’m really not like that, you know. I like to think I’m kind of a soft and fluffy creature these days. So one of the things that was interesting about going on to train another goshawk was, you know, I’m this new person. I’m full of sunlight, and, you know, ‘Hello trees, hello sky,’ you know. What was it going to be like to find myself back in the presence of one of these dark, kind of, creatures? And the answer was it was awesome. I think it was a reckoning. So falconry is a really strange dance of trust between you and a wild creature and you develop a relationship slowly over many days and weeks of contact, and Lupin and I sort of came together and we developed this friendship that was of a very, very different kind of tenor than me and Mabel. You know, Mabel and me were like, she felt like part of my soul. I mean, that seems really cheesy now, but — Lupin was very self-possessed. And we had this very mature, sort of, relationship that was like that between two adult colleagues. It was very cool.”