I Am The One Called
“My heart in hiding stirred for a bird – the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!” Gerard Manley Hopkins penned his exultative prayer in a poem, “The Windhover, To Christ Our Lord.” His words come to mind because my own heart has been stirred by “daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon,” – or, in my case, day-dimmed-descended Hawk.
Late yesterday afternoon, nearly home from an appointment, I turned the corner onto my street and saw, belly up in the grass next to the road, a hawk. I kept driving for a moment until the full realization of what my eyes had seen registered in my heart. A dead hawk was lying under a telephone pole on my street. Of course it hadn’t registered; hawks don’t die in neighborhoods beside telephone poles. Nevertheless, this one had.
I backed up the car and got out to stand beside the body of what had been a great, glorious bird of prey. She could not have been lifeless long, as her eyes weren’t yet cloudy and her yellow-ochre talons and “gold-vermillion” feathers were still pure in their radiance. Standing beside her, looking down, suspended between thought-question-feeling, I experienced an odd sensation of hovering outside time (not something I am used to). Then my own descent began: Shouldn’t there be an acknowledgment of this hawk’s life and death, some marking of the passage? Doesn’t anyone know? Should I call someone?
It was only this morning during my early dawn, after-the-eclipse journaling that I was given the hawk-eye vantage point: I am the one acknowledging her life and death; I am the one marking this passage; I am the one knowing; I am the one called. I Am.
Not knowing whether the great Bird cum Spirit would still be where I’d last seen her, I went to the kitchen and pulled out a white, plastic bag and two vinyl gloves, then got into the car. I could see, four houses away, what I was certain was her body as I pulled from the driveway, and I felt both relief and sorrow – relief that I would be the one to take her away from a street where no one but me seemed to have noticed (wouldn’t someone have done something? I was back to being other-identified), sorrow that no one else had, in fact, done something (I was back, too, to the incredulity I’d felt that her body’s final days would be beneath a telephone pole and not in the fields or forests of her hunting).
Remarkably pliant, she was easily lifted, and I placed her on her belly in the bag. It was then that I saw her “gold-vermillion” tail feathers (the words Hopkins used in his poem to represent Christ’s blood) and wondered if this was a red-tailed hawk.
I knew where I was going – back to the OK Joy Farm, back to where I’d watched the moon disappear this morning, back to where I’d seen hawks circling, maybe even this one, above fertile and fallow fields. I laid her face-down, the overgrowth her sepulchre, hopefully too close to the fence for a tractor to find, but just right for the vultures, which I also see there nearly every day.
After placing the body, I took a few steps back and spoke aloud, acknowledging her life and death, marking her passage. I thanked her Spirit for calling me, as Hawk has called me many times before. In this calling, I knew I was being asked to honor the wisdom, the “medicine” of Hawk, not just for myself, but for all of us: trust the Circle of Life; welcome the higher view by willingly moving along the unseen currents, trusting they are present; allow receipt of messages carried on the winds of Heaven, then come back to our earthly fears with guidance on how to move through them.
I know the hawk neither minded where it died nor that it died. A telephone pole was as perfect a sentry as any to guard her passage to the spirit realm. It was I who was discontented, I who needed reminding that I am still quite attached to being a body. This has been the lesson of the summer, as physical heart concerns have led me to look even more deeply at my fears, including that death can be close by, not far away.
And so Hawk medicine has come to instruct me yet again, asking me to free myself of limiting thoughts and beliefs that keep me from a greater perspective. I am grateful for this hawk’s soul having chosen to lay her body down right where I would see it. Grateful, too, that long before this day “my heart in hiding stirred for a bird, – the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!”
The Windhover (To Christ Our Lord)
– Gerard Manley Hopkins
I caught this morning morning’s minion,
Kingdom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird, – the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!
Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!
No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.
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