That Falcon Eye

Most days here in Las Cruces, I take walks out along the farm road that circles behind the small cul-de-sac where I live. For about two months now a Prairie Falcon has eyed my walk from his perch on the traversing telephone pole.

I’ve come to watch for him.  A camouflaging speckled breast, brown back, and eye streaks–like those intimidating black swipes football players wear under their eyes, only vertical–make it hard to see him.  And he’s smart, hiding in the shadow of the telephone pole crossbar–still, waiting.

Am I prey?  I look up, but not too long.  He tilts his head (raptors can’t move their eyes, they move their heads), his out-sized globe reminding me that if I could see that well I would have to have eyes the size of an orange.

What have I heard about maintaining eye contact with a predator?  An aggressive move and dangerous.  This bird takes his favorite (and mine, but not for that reason), meadowlarks, but mainly feeds on small mammals.  At 125 pounds, I’m probably safe. I keep looking, then glance away.  There’s an impact though, a connection.  We’re uneasy partners, coming to respect each other’s daily path.

What if I had that falcon eye?  Or an eagle eye?  Would I have seen a Trump presidency coming?  Today I feel my heart ripped out; I feel homeless, possibly now vulnerable, helpless.  I think about what Lawrence O’Donnell has said: a president doesn’t automatically deserve our respect  just because he or she wins the office; he or she has to earn it.

Okay, it’s all in the eye of the beholder.  The split country shows that.  But respect could be something we all share.  Mutual respect.

I’ll admit that when I look up toward my fellow creature, Mr. Falcon, I don’t peer through a glass ceiling.  (Not now that I am retired and can qualify to be a K-Mart greeter.)  I see nothing but vast blue sky.  But as a woman I did bump against it most of my baby boomer life.  “You’re not going to try to get a job with that degree, are you?” another academic asked me as I was completing my Ph.D.  Things like having to get tenure three different times when my male colleagues did not.  Things like the devaluing of my work at institutions where over-wrought competition for limited opportunities made for power plays to keep one in one’s place.  And this work was my own modest attempt to give students a path to respecting others’ stories by listening, engaging, learning beyond themselves.

These are tiny things in the world’ eye, sometimes a world filled with genocide, hatred, greed, revenge.  I think of all the young women in the world who risk their lives to even attend school for a few years, if at all.  I think of the suffering and sacrifice of women for their families and communities at the exclusion of themselves. I think of what it means to be a woman–and a man– fully engaged.

This is one of the reasons I was excited about the prospect of a woman president, so long overdue in a country with such a rich history of brilliant women.  And this was not just any woman but someone with great experience, dedication, smarts.  A strong woman, a successful woman, a woman many people hate.  I never understood it–the hatred–because I saw a worthy representative of the cumulative work of women against such odds.  Not perfect but possibly the better for it.  A leader and possibly a visionary if rattled enough from the cage of main stream politics.

It’s probably not right, but for many of us our histories feel wrapped up in her “failure.” In her not quite making it.  When the votes were counted we felt some personal rebuke– loss.

My mother was born six years before women had the vote in this country.  At almost 70, I relished witnessing the tenure of our first woman president.  Amazing bookends of a life lived in the hope of and belief in mutual respect.

I’m told a raptor like Mr. Falcon can see the length of 17 football fields or over a mile to spot mid-sized prey like a rabbit.  I stumble down the trail of my humble human state, but am lifted up when I glimpse him looking into that endless blue sky beyond.

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