I am roiling—self-hatred, anger, a kind of despair, even simple exhaustion all swirling inside me. I close the front door, let the screen slam, collapse to my knees just outside. The red bricks are cold beneath my shins, against the tops of my feet. My back is hunched. I lie in a sobbing heap in the near dark. When my tears ease, I hear a bird call. I think it sounds like the Cooper’s hawk who talked to me for the first time this afternoon. I can’t believe it’s possible, but just the thought it might be him I hear, calling out to me in my pain, the idea he might be trying to comfort me, pierces all the way through my turmoil. I get up, walk to the side yard, look up into the bare branches of the liquid amber. There he is, sitting in the second tree, the one beside the tree he greeted me from earlier today. “Oh,” I whisper, fresh tears falling now, but different. I am no longer alone in this. “Oh,” I say again. “Thank you.”
Back yard corner of my mother’s home, hot tea in hand, time just before my writing class to drink it, to soak up the small arm of these foothills that wraps itself around the cul-de-sac here. If I could be anywhere in the world I might choose to be beneath the down blankets in my Palm Springs bed, the San Jacintos spread before me, the white crowned sparrows making their quiet sounds beneath the bougainvillea in the corner of the courtyard and the sense that my mother was well and sleeping at home with her cat. But this corner is good, too, my pen moving across the page, the sun just high enough now in the southern sky to send shafts of light through the leafless branches of the liquid ambers. I sip my yerba maté and pray, a kind of almost-peace descending.
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 sit, wordless, wondering what will come. Welcome, she says to me. Do not worry. All will be well. Words come, my self reassured by my self. All will be well. Don’t worry. Be happy. (Like the song says.) So simple. So true. So damn hard. I am weird and wonderful one moment, pulled into shark waters the next. But always, always find my way back again, tears drying on my face, something eased or healed inside me, blessings raining down, wetting my head.
I have a funny Sunday night. I wake in the deep of it to steady, quiet rain outside the opened louvered windows. It’s a surprise. I love the rain, and this kind speaks to some deep peace in me. I go out to the back yard naked, collect all the cushions, pile them in the living room. I fall asleep again to the almost silent presence of this summer rain. Before dawn, I wake to wind, the leaves loud in the liquid ambers, the quick, hard sounds of the neighbor’s American flag. I go back outside to put down the three umbrellas, get back in bed. I am not ruffled by this effort or this unexpected need, only responding to it, at ease. (So out of character for me.) The third time I wake is to Monday morning’s trash trucks. I head out the front door, clothed this time, to put out our bins. I go back to bed again because it seems like the thing to do, to complete the pattern of the night, only to daydream a little, to finish waking up. But there is a softness that stays with me into the morning, as if this funny night of waking and going outside and going back to bed was more ritual than oddity, like a Buddhist monk doing walking practice, or the clergy in Kay’s Sailing to Sarantium who stayed up all night chanting to help their god return in the morning with the sun.
Last Sunday I saw the female red-tailed hawk closer than I’ve ever seen her, flashes of both belly and back, the dark outline beneath her wings, the red tail fanned out, translucent, lit by the sun. She landed on a shrub at the top of the ridge near the spot where the row of seven yuccas bloomed once, my companions and my comfort in an earlier stretch of time here. I imagined her studying me. I’ve never been so aware of wanting to be found worthy.