The Hawk

On Andrew’s birthday, August 9th, he took Ivy on a walk. Down at the end of our street, smack dab in the middle of the city, he saw a curious sight: a hawk – imposing, regal, haunting – circling above. As Andrew came closer, the hawk did, too, settling on the exposed limb of a scraggly tree just a few feet away; minutes later, with Andrew and Ivy looking on, the bird swooped to the ground and crushed an unlucky chipmunk in his great, greedy talons.

This summer, Andrew and I have both felt a little like that unwitting chipmunk. Our bad luck started when Ivy had an inexplicable seizure in late May, followed, a week later, by Andrew’s dad‘s very serious intracerebral hemmorhage (a sort of stroke). Then, just when the dust had begun to settle, Ivy threw us for another loop: last week, her body went into toxic shock from something (we know not what) she ingested, almost killing her. (Thanks to our fantastic vets, she survived!)

We feel Someone must want us to learn something from all this hardship, from our hearts breaking and mending, only to be broken again. We are becoming softer people, which is not to say that we are more fearful, but that we are just more aware of what a writer-friend of mine would call “preciousness,” the sweet, poignant internal reality of all things. (I envision here a Caramello.) We are also more acutely aware of the necessity for gratitude in easier times; in retrospect we are able to see our blessings most clearly.

Tomorrow, we leave for a much-needed vacation. My brain is full of Things to Do, which makes me feel anxious and distracted, and I wonder if it wouldn’t just be easier to say we’re going on vacation and stay at home. But we need the break, and once my feet hit the sand the Things to Do will feel, miraculously, more manageable. I know this from experience.

Still, since the hawk showed up again this morning, and because his presence haunts me, I did some research. Not unlike the robins in our yard who preceded Claire’s arrival, the big, wild bird in our neighborhood holds a lesson for us, too: Equated with wisdom and power in the Native American tradition, the hawk is seen as a messenger, a protective provider to his young, a creature that teaches us – via its keen eyesight – to pay attention and be close observers. In the Christian tradition, the hawk is also often interpreted as a symbol of power, though rarely is it the sort of influence that’s gently or fairly wielded. The bird’s name, in Middle English, means “to grasp.”

Andrew and I don’t need a hawk to tell us to use what power we have for good, but we do, I think, need to pay better attention to the small things, to see clearly that which we have been called to protect and that which we are being urged to see in sharp-focus. More than anything, we need to be reminded to grasp onto the things and people and great possibilities within our reach, to hold on tight to that which nourishes our bodies and our souls.

I’ll pick up the blog again with more frequency upon our return. My prose is in need of some serious rest and renewal. Thanks, as ever, for reading …


2 thoughts on “The Hawk

  1. Yikes–this “writer-friend” feels like she’s been misunderstood & then to have the misunderstanding envoked in The Blog–she hastens to clarify!!

    I’ve staked my life around “the sweet, poignant internal reality of all things,” the daily reawakening and preservation of this internal world. My literary Bible is Woolf’s The Waves, which is nothing so much as an attempt to communicate “the sweet, poignant internal reality of all things.” Oh, the inadequacies of email! I intended “preciousness” in the colloquial sense, as in when my editor slashes one of my cliched paragraphs & writes in the margin “GETTING PRECIOUS HERE,” by which she means only that I need to work harder to bring linguistic life to worn-out sentiment. Think of the “precious” rhetoric that Bush uses in his State of the Union addresses; I meant only that if we, as writers, aren’t interested in alluding to/envoking the same mythologies, we need to articulate the internal landscape in ways particular to our vision.

    All of this to say I think maybe we’re more on the same page than my poorly-articulated email made it seem. Have a wonderful vacation & know you’ll have a proper epistle from me very soon. Hope you’ll read it under a tree along with Gilead!



  2. We have had a hawk in our yard in Baltimore City. We usually see them down the street at the park or at a distance in the sky. But this one’s been stalking our yard all summer and has stolen the eggs of robins. Two of them of four managed to survive, and we were grateful. I am such a fan of the birds. It is hard not to give human qualities to animals that mate for life, nest and live in the same place every year, and grieve over their lost families.

    Hawks are amazing and graceful and beautiful, even when they’re stealing a future life. But I hate it.

    What I learn from the birds is that “why can’t we all just get along” is answered so succinctly by them.


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