Mami and I walk to the end of the cul-de-sac, the last sunlight hitting the top of our bit of foothills here. There are two bucks on the hillside, fidgeting, a little anxious. Then their third appears in the neighbor’s back yard, walks across the patio to join them, and they relax. We stand for a long time watching them, silent, arms twined. I swim after sunset, slow strokes back and forth across the length of the pool. I feel easy and strong. I have the orange glow and Venus as companions, and my mountain here in silhouette, two handfuls of stars across our stretch of sky. Later, I finally write a letter to Ulla, my Auntie Gardi’s sister who helped us so much when my Tante Helga died. I wrote a paragraph by hand in English, then typed it into the computer, then copied Google’s German translation again by hand. I thought it would feel grueling, but it didn’t. It was quiet, steady work, but there was a peace about it, too, and the hope it might make her know how much she came to mean to me during those long months last fall after my aunt died. My eyes begin to close as I type, and I long for those moments when I can turn out the living room lights, say good night to that distant, lit-up world below us and seek my bed.
This morning I am doing my chores and hear the ravens call. When I go out to my corner of the yard, the two of them are siting in the neighbor’s tree. They are quiet now, using their softer vocalizations. I sit with my back to them, and their sounds soothe me while I write. I go inside to get my tea, and I forget to honor them before I leave. When I go back out again, they are gone. I am pierced by my regret. I send them my silent apologies. Tears come to soften me from whatever it was that disturbed me earlier. (I don’t remember now. Something is always disturbing me these days.) Regret is not the route I’d choose to my unhardened heart, but today I am grateful because it does the trick, gets me inside. I like it inside. The juvenile red-tailed hawk shows himself above the ridge when my tears come, and I don’t believe it’s coincidence. Because I am inside again, I am able to connect with him. He circles wider, flies right above me, low enough that I can see his markings. My gratitude widens with the arc of his flight, quiet and clear like his passage across the sky. Later, I shake my head. Regret as entryway to gratitude and gifts. Who would have thought?
When I stop, even for a moment, my bone-deep exhaustion starts to sink me. I begin to fall asleep in guided meditations. I have become one of those people I used to watch sometimes in sangha whose head drifts lower and lower until they wake with a jerk and place themselves upright, only to begin the nodding off process again. I drink more yerba maté at sunset. Swimming makes me feel alive while I’m in the water. I have become too tired again for real joy, only a deep gratitude—bone-deep like the exhaustion, cell-deep—for that huge, orange crescent moon last night when I turned off the living room lights, for the appearance of the red-tailed hawk in unexpected moments, for the early morning birdsong and the mornings I wake with a quiet heart to listen, for the two ravens speaking in the neighbor’s tree, those round sounds I love so much, like rolling percussive taps of hollow wood. For moments without anger. For each time I am tender and kind.
I sit beneath the lime green umbrella in the corner of the yard and drink my yerba maté. I remember the moon and look for her in the sky. She is right there, only a turn of my head, not behind the neighbor’s tree or hidden by the umbrella. My daylight moon. I turn back to study the top of the ridge before me in search of movement or the silhouette of a hawk perched on a shrub or the bare branch of a dead bush. Once I saw a deer grazing at the very top of the hill. I’d always wondered if they climbed the steep rocky sides. I let my mind drift, drink my tea. Later I wonder if I can still see the moon, and I turn to look again. There is writing in the sky where the moon was. For a moment, I think it is a message from the universe. It startles me to find it there, but in that first second, the possibility doesn’t seem odd at all. Why shouldn’t there be a message in the sky for me? In the next moment, I realize it’s skywriting. “Narek,” it says. Or maybe “Marek.” The word is moving north, the letters beginning to come apart. I see the moon then, the waning crescent just beside the “k.” Behind the name is a perfect heart, holding its shape as it follows Narek across the sky.
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.
Years ago my friend Richard talked about how we can shine a light on any aspect of ourselves, bringing our attention to it, and that’s all we need to do for it to transform. (I’m sorry. I don’t know if this should be attributed to a particular teacher.) I remember telling him you would have to have a lot of kindness for yourself in order for that to work. I knew it wasn’t working like that for me. The other day I was sitting in my corner of the back yard beneath the lime green umbrella, thinking about my anger, my reactivity, my yelling. I was deep in my thoughts, the pool, the pots of succulents, the bees, even the lizards all receding. I am always paying attention to some degree when I’m acting out, I thought. But my observer isn’t curious or kind. My behavior isn’t okay with her. I think if I want to be able to rein myself in more quickly and more often, I need to develop a better relationship with my observer, fund more kindness, foster more genuine interest in my goings on. I can almost hear her. Oh, look, she whispers, fascinated, look what you’re doing now. Isn’t that interesting. Oh, see how it isn’t working for you? Let’s see what we can do, she says. I can dream up a version of me laughing at myself, brimming with self-acceptance. I can almost touch her. But I am too far away. Still, the sense of possibility is heartening. I look up at the ridge, my little bit of mountain here, scan the edges for a sitting hawk. I don’t see one today. But hope sits inside me. Maybe if my observer can be kinder, she can talk me around.