Some observation notes on peregrine falcons at Columbus Hillside Preserve

The weather has turned warm and the sunlight lingers on the Columbus hillside until nearly nine pm. I ran last night out toward the open pits at the end of the trail hoping to see a kestrel or perhaps an owl. The evening wind had arrived and moved the grasses like huge invisible fingers pressing down on bed sheets, caressing the land. It was hot enough that I ran shirtless once I passed Hell Canyon and started out past the extravagant stands of curly dock (Rumex crispus) and the milkweeds (Asclepias) where the two deer carcasses have sunk back into the earth except for the dense parts of the skeletons. Their leering bleached grins and plangent look reminds me of the beauty even of death and its concomitant notion of renewal, of birth. 

When I reach the end of the trail I notice a dark shape whose wings are kept swept back in the shape of a boomerang. The shape easily traverses huge tracts of sky with a flick of a notion, an adjustment of the tail or wing not unlike a human pointing absently toward something across the room. With this the falcon's trajectory, on this evening wind's lift, runs down the gunwales of the hillside - a distance of 800 meters - in four or five seconds. And as though controlled by a physics different from the known, the tiercel Peregrine (Falco peregrinus), whose nest is in the adjacent City Creek Canyon, pulls straight up into the empyrean, halting its momentum over the refineries and using awesome power, hovers there, stationary, like a moth. I crouch behind some rhyolite and it spots me, dips its left wing and without seeming to try careens past me so close that I can spot its mottled white belly and executioner's cap before it breaks up a party of swifts circling out over the gravel pit behind me. And then it is gone completely. 

This is how it is with falcons. They come in quickly, unzip reality, hasten it, quicken the senses, quicken the land for it always runs out before them, and catching some unseen reins, fling themselves outward beyond the reckoning of the senses. Humans are left to pick up the pieces of their own astonishment. If we think we are good at what we do, which may be no more than destruction, the falcon is infinitely more capable at what it does, which is to say, keeping the earth from breaking apart.