In Reverence to Two Hawks Who Guided Me

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Brown Goshawk
In the first year that I started UniGuide, there was always a pull for me to go back to a more “stable” existence of a full-time job with a tech company. At least I would be getting a regular paycheck.

One day, during a period like too many others, when I was living on a financial razor’s edge that threatened homelessness, I took my dog, Roo, for a walk at Lands End to clear my head.

My fears about striking out on my own, starting a blog, and not working in a traditional way were overwhelming. I could barely function I was so full of self-doubt.

Lands End is one of my favorite places in San Francisco. Located on the northwest perimeter of the city, it’s part of the Golden Gate National Recreation area. To me, it’s a sacred place in an otherwise bustling city because humans have, for the most part, left it alone.

View of the Pacific Ocean from Lands End, San Francisco. Photo: MCSel.

 

A meandering trail, which used to be train tracks at the turn of the century that carried sightseers on the Ferries and Cliff Steam Line, winds along steep cliffs that overlook the Pacific Ocean as it funnels into San Francisco Bay.

Strolling along this trail on a beautiful spring day in May, as Roo was taking her time sniffing, I was asking myself if I’m crazy.

Maybe I should shift gears, I thought. Maybe I should do something different. Things weren’t going the way I thought they would. Shouldn’t things be happening faster? Who am I fooling? Should I give this up? Should I call so and so in my network and try to get a job somewhere? My thoughts were all over the place, and none of them were pleasant.

I paused to wait for Roo and gazed out across the water to Marin Headlands in the distance.

Then I noticed in the sky, nearly at eye level, a hawk hovering. Only, he wasn’t moving at all. His wings were wide, yet he was completely still. He was riding the air current in complete stillness. Floating motionless in the sky, he was in a state of grace, of divine homeostasis. He hovered there for what seemed like eons.

As I watched him, a voice in my head said, “Stay the course.” No change. Stay the course.

A feeling came over me that the wind was holding me too.

 

When I was in my 20s, I was on another walk, this time with my dog before Roo, whose name was Jojo. We were in my old neighborhood in Berkeley. Jojo paused at a bush and whimpered. Unlike Roo, who is a hunter, Jojo was a gentle soul. I went to see what she was looking at and through the branches, I saw a Cooper’s hawk standing on the ground.

Out of his element, he was clearly injured. At that time, there was a bird rescue facility in Berkeley, which I called. A biologist who worked there came out and, wearing thick gloves that went up to her armpits, she was able to capture the hawk and bring him back to their facility. They called me later to tell me that the hawk had a compound fracture in his wing and could not be rehabilitated, so they put him down.

I expressed my regret to the volunteer at the center. I said, ‘God, I feel so badly for him.’

She said, “Try not to feel bad. You lessened his suffering.”

Cooper's Hawk
Cooper’s hawk. Photo: Patrick Doheny.

 

Since that day in Berkeley, hawks have always been special to me. Seeing the hawk hovering in stillness at Lands End had a profound effect on me.

No, this hawk did not exist to give me signs. No more than the wounded one did that Jojo discovered in the bushes. These hawks existed in their right, sentient beings on their own souls’ journeys. Yet, when I saw them, I experienced them on a multitude of levels. On one level, as a human seeing a fascinating bird. And on another, they were guides in my soul’s journey here on Earth.

And this has led me to writing this post.

Throughout history, animals have meant many things to human beings. We have treated them with both reverence and sadistic abuse. This post, and the series of related posts I plan to write about spirit animals, will be about reverence. And in today’s world, reverence means protection.

I understand why people want jewelry or t-shirts or mugs that have their favorite animals on them. Or why we want selfies with wild animals. And I understand why we have spirit animals. I only hope we can turn that fascination into reverence, which we then, always, translate to protection.

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