It takes a few tries. Then she is on my arm. Time slows down. All I can think is I wish you could fly. I see the gray cat sitting quietly at the bottom of the long green slope. His stillness is the patience of the poised hunter. I wish you could hunt.
She touches my forehead with her beak. I become deeply aware of my left eye. She takes hold of the upper frame of my glasses. Lets go. Takes hold of the gold earring in my left ear. Lets go.
She touches my face again and again with her beak. I want to touch her but as I begin to move, the feathers on the top of her white head rise. Jeff grins at me. I drop my hand back to my side. Her touches continue to be cool and soft.
I tell her I might know how it is. I tell her I have no way of knowing how it is. To not fly. To not hunt.
My arm grows numb. “I’m ready to give her back.” Jeff slowly extends his arm.
Later I consider what cannot be captured. I have driven to be with her from the Mojave Desert. In that place what goes to earth dessicates to particles. In her home, what goes to earth melts away.
I drove from dust to mud on Highway 395. The road runs north through mountains and sage basins, along the West Walker River in Nevada. There I slowed for a curve, glanced to my right and saw veils of color on the riverbanks. Pink, silver-brown, gold, green-gold, rose-gold.
Alice. Through the Looking Glass. She is in a boat. Something else paddles. A caterpillar, a white rabbit, a mad hatter... Rushes grow on the banks of the stream. Alice has never seen colors as beautiful as the pale greens and pinks and silvers of the rushes. She leans over the edge of the boat and gathers in huge armfuls of the rushes. Again and again. The bottom of the boat is filled with glowing color.
And then, no matter how many rushes she lays at her feet, the radiance in the bottom of the boat begins to fade and disappear.