This morning there is sun. It’s cold for southern California, and glorious after three days of steady rain. I feed the birds in my mother’s back yard, put up the lime green umbrella in my far corner, dry my edge of the white slatted table and the two chairs I use. I look up at the ridge and west across the valley, one of those rare days in L.A. where the air is clean and fresh. My tea is still steeping, so after I am set up in my corner of the back yard I head out the front gate to get the newspapers. I hear a hawk and look up in time to see her launch herself from Aida’s redwood, arc right above me, fly up the road to another tree. I talk to her from where I stand. Then a second call, a second launching right above me, and her mate flies southwest, disappears. He surprises me even more. Both of them! Had they been there all along, and I was just oblivious? The mama hawk flies back to Aida’s tree. It is the closest I’ve been to her when she wasn’t in flight. I talk to her. She listens, preens a bit. It feels comfortable, almost ordinary. We have a history together, she and I, one that mostly feels like a dream to me now. But I know in the core of me what happened was real. I don’t say it out loud right now, but she knows how much I love her. I just stand there looking up, wishing I could see her eyes. If she is broadcasting to me I am too dumb today to pick it up. But I know she loves me, too. It is an enduring source of awe for me, that this can be true. I stand still after she leaves, calling out once more. I am mute now, humbled, grateful. And I am all filled up with her, my unexpected red-tailed hawk friend.
I’ve never been good at this, but I’ve always wanted to be. So when I get the sense for the first time that she has a message for me, I try to be able to receive it. I am surprised to get words. “Dissolve and blossom,” she tells me. I know right away she means my habit of fear, the armature that’s lived inside me all my life. Days later, in an almost dream when I am curled up in bed crying, wanting to forgive myself for being unkind to my mother in the unlooked for hours of the early morning, I see chicken wire in my heart and throat. After my fall, for a moment I understand she meant more than my fear, that her message was more akin to the sense I’ve had that I am being asked to surrender completely, to let go of all resistance, maybe, or allow all my holding on to dissolve, to slip back into the earth to become good things. I know this is impossible. But more and more in small moments, quiet tears sometimes sliding down my face, I believe in it, the incremental, invisible little bits of it, one unexpected moment here or there, and then the next.