I have returned to my yoga. I’d been afraid to try for a long time after my fall. My wrists were still healing. The first time I try my sun salutes, I am caught off guard by how much the bottom of my palms hurt, not just my wrists. Today is the third or maybe the fourth time I try, so I am not surprised by the pain, and now I know it will ease up if I keep going, slow and gentle. When I swoop up to standing at the end of each salutation, head thrown back, I see the fat, white crescent moon above me in the daylight sky. With each ending, there she is, her happy greeting a delight. And then when I stand again, there is my gal circling above me, my mama red-tailed hawk, as if she is waiting for me to know she is there, and the papa hawk, too. They circle twice more, an affectionate, lingering check-in, and off they go. I can’t stop grinning.
I am in the corner of my mother’s yard drinking my tea in the late afternoon. I see a shape perched on the dead yucca stem at the top eastern side of the ridge, the one where the red-tailed hawks’ offspring often sits. I don’t know for sure if it’s him or one of his parents, but he turns in my direction when I look through my binoculars. “Oh, hello, love,” I whisper. When I put down the binoculars, my eyes still scan the ridgeline near him. I spot an odd shape a few “inches” to the north of his spot, maybe seven yards away from his yucca stem. I squint at it as it moves and my mind makes sense of it, the almost-full waxing moon rising in the daylight sky. Its movement is quick, surprising. What began as a smooth white arc that didn’t belong with the ragged edges of the chaparral morphs into the moon’s face, her eyes and mouth visible, only a bit of the left side still unseen. She shares the ridgeline with the red-tailed hawk, both companion and blessing. And both of them are both to me, small, odd human in my chair below, honored to pieces, and made whole.
I am out in the far corner of my mother’s back yard under the lime green umbrella doing feedback on Zoom with my new writing group when I see her go by. The mama red-tailed hawk glides just below the ridge line, then lands on the dead yucca stem on the eastern arm of the ridge, the one her offspring was sitting on when I understood he was in despair, afraid she might die. I greet her with my leaping heart and see her land, but I don’t feel like I can disappear from my meeting. Without making a clear choice I am whooshed back into the interaction with these wonderful women. (Four of them met for the first time last month, and today there are six of us, the complete set.) I feel lucky to be a part of things. I was funny about joining late, though I may have been the catalyst for the group’s beginning, when (as usual) I didn’t want our writing class to end. I was so taken by that particular collection of people. Later, I remember my hawk, and I ache for my lost chance. It is an “if only” longing, and I know it’s silly. But having her come to sit is so rare. It would have been lovely to have that time to commune with her. I worry, too, that she doesn’t understand why I wasn’t there for her. That she might feel slighted or hurt or even just disappointed like I am breaks my heart. So I will have to believe she trusts in my love for her, knows how much she matters to me. And I will have to believe we’ll have another chance soon.
It is two months now since I fell. I returned to my yoga for the first time yesterday. Today I do four sun salutes. My hands hurt when I lower myself to the green mat from plank pose, when I push up, when I move into downward dog. I am slow, careful, feeling into it to be sure I’m not causing harm. After, in chavasana, I let out all my air, relieved and grateful to be here again, the place I come to after my yoga, even after this little bit. I open my eyes and watch the turkey vulture glide by above me, skirting the ridge. “Be safe,” I whisper to her. “Be careful in this wind.” Earlier today I walked out into the street to see if I could see Catalina. The long, curving shape of her was there, downtown L.A. close enough to touch, the sea shimmering between them. My red-tailed hawks’ offspring was there, too. He wavered in the wind, landed on the ridge, seemed to be eating, though I was not close enough to tell. I think of him now when I open my eyes again, lying on the yoga mat, and there are two ravens playing high in the sky.
A shadow moves
across my mother’s back yard
and I look up in time to see
the papa hawk in hunch mode
I stand up
from my chair in the corner
and the mama hawk is there
and as she circles the neighbor’s big tree
whose name I need to learn
the one where the ravens like to sit
I see the waning half moon is there, too
and we are all of a piece
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?