with Mark de Roo

What I learned from a falcon   

Don’t you love those spontaneous “carpe diem” opportunities? They don’t happen very often. Whether you choose to seize the entire day or just connect for a brief moment, it’s usually a valuable experience when you do. I was reminded of this on September 16 when my wife and I had the rare pleasure to be treated like royalty.

The author with Rua the Falcon

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had a fascination with raptors. I guess I’m amazed by their speed, their prowess, and their keen eyesight.  They can spot a tiny mouse from a height of 800 feet.  I also knew from a high school European history class that falconry was “the sport of kings.”  And not just kings. Mary Queen of Scots also had her own collection of raptors.

A commitment of a few euros.  An unbelievable experience.

Now, back to Ashford Castle’s School of Falconry.  Of course, I put down a few Euros to attend the one-hour experience, not really knowing what I might encounter!

What I did experience was Jason, a cool Aussie instructor and a dozen or so Peregrine Falcons and Harris Hawks.  My particular bird was named “Rua,” which in Hebrew means “spirit” or “wind.”  I donned the leather glove and had Rua step aboard.  Jason told me how to position my hand and arm as well as how to release the hawk for take-off.  Seeing the hawk fly and then glide for 50 yards four feet above the ground as it approached me was nothing short of “super cool.” I only hope to do it again.

There’s a lesson here for each one of us.

I also learned something about raptors that serves as a lesson for the human species. Each day, Jason and his colleagues weigh the birds.  My ritual is more like once a month.  They do so with a reason.  They’ve discussed an optimum weight for each bird—a weight that translates into performance. When the bird is over weight—even by an ounce—it loses its motivation to fly. There just isn’t much incentive.

Conversely, if the bird is under-weight, it is eager to fly but may not have the energy or the stamina for long flights or the capacity to slice-and-dice its prey. Their weight simply has to be just right.

This all got me to thinking. What’s the optimum weight for me to perform?  And it’s just not the literal step-on-the-scale weight thing. The same could be said for how I balance the essential parts of my life, of any life: mind, body, spirit, and emotions. For instance, I love to read, to view TED videos, and to watch CNN. But, every so often (OK, most nights), I need to balance those things with a couple of episodes of Seinfeld.  And I can also tell in a day or two if I haven’t done my daily 3-mile run.  

So, thanks, Rua, for the sweet reminder about the importance of “balance.”  Thanks for demonstrating your power, grace, and beauty.  I’ll take your “squawk talk” anytime.