“Red-Tailed Hawk– Primal life force, fulfilling your soul’s purpose, mental and spiritual forces, the teaching of higher expressions of psychic ability and vision, lessons of awareness and insight”
The above is a quote I found on red-tailed hawks on a site called Spirit Walk Ministry. I’m not usually much for the mystical. I’m much more of a realist now than I was when I was younger. Magical thinking got me into a lot of trouble in my younger years, and led to an awful lot of heartbreak and disappointment. The fifteen year old who read tarot and believed in all sorts of metaphysical silliness would raise an eyebrow at atheist, practical, un-magical me. I think that omens and signs are mostly random figments of our imagination. That being said, the events of last Tuesday were very strange indeed.
I live in a large apartment complex in Queens that has lots of trees, flowers, and benches. It hosts a great deal of wildlife for an urban area, but nothing much beyond squirrels and small birds. I left the house at my usual time, and was picking out my music selection when suddenly I heard a great WHOOSH from over my head. I looked up and saw a MASSIVE bird fly past me and onto the fence in front of me. My husband had mentioned seeing one of them a couple of years ago, but I’d never seen one with my own eyes. I stared at him and he stared right back at me, eyes fixed. I was a bit startled, but intrigued at this majestic bird sitting near me. He took off again towards the playground. His wingspan had to have been about 5 feet.
“Red tailed hawk,” one of the maintenance guys said, “There’s a pair of ‘em, but this guy shows up more. Usually they come in the fall, but they’ve been here all week taking out some squirrels. Been cleanin’ up squirrel guts all week.”
“Ew!” I responded, “What, they just swoop down and get them?”
“Yup,” he said, “He swoops down and guts em real quick with his talons and flies into the tree with it. Notice how there aren’t too many squirrels running around right now”.
It was true. We usually see a ton of squirrels running around and rummaging through trash and digging holes in the lawn, but clearly our hawk friend had taken care of business. I went on my way, thinking I’d seen the last of the hawk, and happy to have had a cool wildlife encounter.
I got home later that night and sat down at my computer desk to write. I poured myself a finger of bourbon and got to work. Suddenly, I heard this clicking and chirping sound from outside the window. The sun was just beginning to set. I stopped writing to listen, and then it went away. I shrugged and continued on. Just as I was getting on a roll, I heard it again. I set down my drink and my journal and looked out my window.
This is what I saw (click to see larger).
I froze. Out of all the fire escapes in my complex (and there are hundreds), this beautiful creature decided to land on mine. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The pictures don’t really do him justice. He is truly majestic, a real bird of prey. He looked at me again, a bit surprised to see me, but not afraid. I grabbed my camera and started snapping photos of him, careful to leave the flash off so I didn’t disturb him. I also started live-tweeting my hawk sighting, because I couldn’t believe what was going on. A few people joked that he was stalking me, which I thought was funny. Some thought perhaps it was a sign; an omen. I joked that the hawk was my new spirit guide.
My husband got home around 10 pm and the hawk was still there. We nicknamed him Mr. Floofy, which might be the most emasculating name for a macho hawk ever. He IS pretty floofy though, with plumes of soft feathers on his belly and under his tail. See?
Kidding aside, maybe Mr. Floofy WAS there for a reason.
When I was writing Paper Cranes, origami cranes mysteriously began appearing everywhere. I even found one on a subway seat. Any time I felt ready to quit, or to give up, another crane or bird would somehow appear. One night, when I was writing a particular scene, a whole bunch of sparrows came and sat out on my windowsill. After a rewarding, yet sometimes challenging professional year, I’m feeling burned out and like I’m smashing my head into a concrete wall. I’ve gotten so so so close to some major fellowships and awards but just missed the mark. Just when I was despairing, and at moments even debating on taking a hiatus (as I do when I’m frustrated), another kind of bird followed me and patiently waited while I finished writing something new. Maybe it was a sign. Or it wasn’t. I suppose sometimes in life, you take the weird random things that happen and get whatever meaning you can out of it. in this case, I’ll take it.
Birds seem to be the things that follow me when I’m feeling lost, which is helpful, since they always seem to know where they’re going.