There is a thrill, and pleasure I can’t even begin to describe, when I put on the glove, and take a bird from the handlers for the first time. The knowledge that I am holding one of natures most graceful hunters is impressive enough, but then I get to study the bird, and learn about them. No two have ever been the same. Some have had a quiet grace about them, that belies the speed with which they can kill, while others have been noisy, and full of themselves.
Every bird I’ve handled has been a unique personality, and I have to give the trainers and handlers the credit they are due, because most have trained a number of birds, and the techniques have to differ for each bird. Many of the birds I’ve handled are used to traveling to displays and shows, others are new to it. Some of the ones I’ve handled have been a little skittish at first, because they are not so used to being handled by anyone other than their trainers. But time and a little patience is often all they need to settle down.
No matter the experience of the bird, I have considered it an honor every time I’ve been allowed to handle, and fly them. And no matter how many times I handle a particular breed of bird, I am always fascinated, and enthralled by the way they move in flight. The differences in how each breed maneuvers in flight, the different hunting techniques, and how their shape and build affects everything about their lives.
Having handled a large number of raptors, I would have to say the biggest thrill still has to be the eagles. I had to wait a long time to handle my first eagle, and when that martial eagle landed, I got an appreciation for what aircraft carriers go through. For watching a bird fly, I would have to recommend watching the handlers flying a falcon on a lure. The speed and grace of these birds is mind-blowing. They aren’t powerful birds, but they use their speed and aerial dexterity to devastating affect. But there will always be a place in my heart for the first breed of raptor I held, the famous barn owl. How the owls got the reputation for being smart I’ll never know. “They can be as dumb as a sack of rocks”, is how one handler described them. But despite this, they are still one of natures silent killers. Deadly, cute, and loveable.
Ever since I started reading fantasy books, mythology has fascinated me. Over the years I’ve read a lot of material on the Greeks and Romans, the Norse, and the Celts, but I always end up coming back to one group of stories.
The myths of King Arthur are deeply woven into the fabric of so many nations, that it is hard not to find them of interest. Stories of knights riding into battle; the power struggles between magic users seeking to control the rulers of their day; tales of loves lost and won; treachery and deceit that threatens a kingdom. If these themes seem familiar, then it’s not surprising, since they are often at the core of fantasy stories.
What I find most interesting though is that most of these tales were added after the original core character of Arthur first appeared, and are actually for the most part portrayed in a way that puts them out of time with the events. Arthur is a character that might have originated in tales of the fourth century, so there is little chance of him riding into battle on a warhorse, decked out in full field plate armor, as you would see in the film “Excalibur”. It is far more likely that you’d see him equipped less conspicuously, possibly as he is portrayed in the 2004 “King Arthur” film.
What is certain, is that the stories we read are an amalgamation of stories from multiple cultures, across a span of centuries. And just like any myth, if there is a real person at the core of the stories, their true identity has been submerged beneath the tales.
Games & Role-playing
I’ve been an avid role-player since my college days, and I think this is one of the things that lead to my deepening interest in characters, and stories. I used to role-play at least once, or twice, a week, with a group of friends who liked to experiment with different game systems, settings, and character concepts. Back then the games we played most were Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 2nd Edition, Dungeons & Dragons (basic), Ars Magica, Shadowrun, Paranoia, and Tales from the Floating Vagabond.
The games were always light-hearted, even if the stories weren’t. Since several of the group members were active in the live-roleplaying scene, it was only a matter of time before I followed. I spent a large number of weekends in fields, in costume, camping out, and wrecking havoc with latex weapons. Despite numerous character deaths, and unexpected events happening to my alter-egos, I loved every minute of it. Downtime between events was often spent planning for the next event, or working on group backgrounds, suggesting plot ideas for the games, or even making new costume.
Then there was the realm of table-top board games, and Magic: The Gathering. Between my role-playing books, and board games, I had entire bookcases filled with entertainment, but nothing spoke to the collector in me like Magic. When I was in college the game was still in it’s very earliest releases, so the number of cards available was small. But as time went on, the new core-set releases, and expansion sets started adding up. I tried to keep up, but eventually had to admit defeat, and stop collecting. It was probably just as well that I did, since after college my opportunities to play dropped dramatically. However, when I moved to Alaska, I found some friends who played, and got back into the game, but not the collecting side. Thankfully, I can now look at a new release, or expansion pack, and say no, I can wait.