Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Tale of the Heart Hawk

Some might think that "Heart Hawk" is an odd, awkward name for a blog. But there's a tale behind the name…

Many years ago, measured in decades, I was madly, passionately, over-the-moon in love with a man. The relationship was not a balanced one and our visions of a relationship were diametrically opposed: my ideal was side-by-side with my partner while his was toe-to-toe. But we kept the relationship going and towards the end, spent a magical weekend in the Outer Banks, complete with foxes on the beach at midnight, a sunset on the dunes that seemed to never end, followed by deer coming out to browse on the dunes. On the trip home, I could not stop crying. Looking back, I think my inner self knew that the relationship wouldn't last and was already grieving.

A few months later, I volunteered for a winter bird study at Patuxent Wildlife Refuge. Every Saturday I'd make the trek to Maryland, and would retrieve birds captures in the mist nets and cages. It was fascinating and I loved being able to get so close to the birds. Towards the end of the study, the relationship did end and I was devastated. Actually, "devastated" is too mild a word. The grief and anger was so strong that I'd curl up tight and sob. I'd scream out my grief in the car on the way home from work. I was a total mess.

I spent the night before the last day of the winter bird study crying. The next morning, my eyes were practically swollen shut, my face blotchy from tears. I took one look in the mirror and knew that I was not fit to be seen in public. But something propelled me to the car and I made it to Refuge just as the last round ended. I was the first person to make it to the mist nets and lo and behold! There was a hawk in one of the nets! The project leader carefully extricated the hawk and placed it in the hawk bag. We put the bagged hawk in a cool, dark room so it would stay calm, and processed the rest of the birds. 

After all the birds were safely released, we identified, sexed, and measured the hawk. It was a female Sharp-Shinned. She was magnificent. When it came time to release her, the leader of the study turned me and asked "Would you like to let her go?" She showed me how to hold the hawk, on the legs, above the talons, for it's the talons that will do the most damage, not the beak.

Carefully holding the hawk, I stepped out the door and opened my hand. With strong wing strokes, the hawk rose up and soared into the sky. I kept my eyes on her until she was a mere speck against the sky, and then she was gone. As she flew away, I could feel my heart go with her. It was a defining moment in my life and one that I will always remember.

Fast forward to this year, when I began journeying around the medicine wheel with Pixie Campbell. I decided that, to help me along, I'd get a Zuni fetish of each animal we studied. When I saw the hawk fetish in the title of this blog, I knew it was mine, even though we weren't studying Hawk. The artist is Salvador Romero and he works with found stones.

So the women in the course were talking about their animal totems and guides and I was feeling a bit left out, because in my journeys, nothing happened, no guides showed up to guide me. Then one day on the way to work, on a suburban thoroughfare, a bird rose up from the side of the road and flew next to my car for a short distance, before veering off. It was a Redtail Hawk. Hmmm…

The next week, as I was driving to work, I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye and glanced over. A bird had risen up out of the grass and was flying next to my car. Another hawk!

It was then that I realized that I've had a relationship with Hawk since that day she carried away a piece of my heart. I couldn't hear the message then. I hear it now. I'm learning to observe, listen deeply, and hone my intuition. As Jamie Sams and David Carson say in Medicine Cards:

Hawk has a keen eye and a bold heart, for Hawk flies close to the Light of Grandfather Sun.

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