I set out to write here about the writing of a book consisting of a series of walks last winter in which I went deep looking for kestrels and found, instead, my soul. What kestrelheart has become though, is an account of my experiences in the Bonneville Basin through several different interactions with it. A history. A geography. A notebook. A story, or, a manifold of collapsing stories that intertwine with all the others. kestrelheart is developing into a much larger book about the history of the Basin and of Salt Lake Valley most particularly. How did it come to be here, look like this, get to be disfigured so heavily by us. A season following non-migrating kestrels has become another winter, this one in the company of the incredibly powerful Falco mexicanus, the selfsame bird I saw last winter a few times out in the far west desert of Utah. Different winter, different lessons, different kinds of staying around, same home. We live into knowledge only after the experience, or I do anyway. Holy is the transfiguration of the moment into self - memory. What emerges from my fingers when I set down to write about it is liturgy. To wit, the first words of kestrelheart as I imagined them this morning:
"What is history but someone else’s story. Rather, an innumerable threading of myriad stories twining endlessly round others. History is an empty word, a misleading too-tended path on which it’s easy to convince oneself that one is not, in fact, on an entirely arbitrary trail burnished by countless others. There are different ways to tell the story. Once, I’m convinced, one steps off these trails into the pathless wilderness, goes after whim and deep attention to things, forgets the trails, in fact is distrustful of them, spits on them and scorns those who follow them only, only then does a history begin to emerge from the work, but only then, and only really then, does a history begin to limn itself somehow from the miasma of the ten thousand things. And then it really is there. A Gambel’s oak is really just another oak until we pay attention to it perhaps for ten years in all different kinds of days and then it might become a family member. Patience is history, then. Looking is history too. And then a consonant ringing is history which will be slightly different to each feeler and experiencer. Getting out then into history is getting off the trail and going into the wilderness for a while and not just once but really over and over again and really letting go of the going back into town to safety. History is trope and literal at the same time. Turning and facing like every wild thing. Then that fox just tailing around the corner, that’s history. It’s history too, the godly swoops and arcs and traces of birds through the sky. It’s history how men dig out mountains for their flesh and then abandon the wound when there is no more flesh. It’s history what lingers there when the men are gone. I live next to one such place and this book is a history of all the things I’ve felt and seen and heard and smelled and tasted there. I live in a diminutive time. All things are receding and getting smaller. History gets distended, weirder, more bleak the less threads we can discern, make sense of. There aren’t any big stories later on here. But there is evidence of god and of eternal recurrence. In fact, these very words, this one itself in fact, have been written the same way and in precisely the same order, endlessly before. But welcome anyway, because I also know this is your first time through. You’ll understand what I mean eventually."