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.
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?
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.