Aunt Alice in Arabia – The Joy of Success

May 2, 1990

A student who had written about hawking in Pakistan presented me with a few close-ups of hawks as their claws stilled their living prey. The hawks’ I’ve-killed-and-won eyes were self-satisfied, arrogant, proud and powerful.

All I saw was the joy of killing. I mentioned it to my student who smiled happily, “Of course. He can eat now.”

I don’t look like that when I leave Safeway.  Nor when I receive my monthly salary.

In the States, one of my Cambodian students told me how he had daily hunted for food. I imagined my muscles tuned to the jungle heat, eyes darting for signs of movement against the thick green foliage, my nostrils flared for any foreign smells, my fingers so sensitive to my spear and the air that soon my whole being was one with the jungle, my prey and eventual victory.

I wondered when I felt such fear, anxiety, concentration and then total abandon.  I yearned for a victory which would pump my blood full of adrenaline and other chemicals giving me an ecstasy which would make me one with nature.

Perhaps after a long day of shopping? There’s the hunting for the correct color, cloth, cut and cost to attain the clothes that will make me the woman of my dreams.  Yes, I might have a slight touch of victory at such moments.

Other such slight victories: when someone compliments a photograph I’ve done or something I’ve written; a student says “Thank you,”; I’ve climbed-crawled a sand dune at sunrise; or when I’ve mastered a computer program. But as a woman, I haven’t the sports background to experience that total PHYSICALNESS of victory – except once recently.
The first time I went cave-crawling, spelunking, was in the biggest cave on earth:  Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. I had hooked up with a lucky group which had miraculously acquired reservations for a private spelunking tour. We crawled and scratched and bumped our way through impossible layers of rock, small birth-canal like holes and sat in darkened caves which never-ever saw sunlight.  Afterwards, walking from the tourist entrance where thousands merely strolled on paved passages and never struggled through the labyrinth mazes my group had done, my spontaneous victorious words were: “I feel like a man.” Now that I know better, next time I might say, “I feel like a hawk!”