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.
Along the Cliff’s Edge
At Lands End, there’s a meandering trail, which used to be train tracks at the turn of the century. Victorian-era sightseers would ride on the Ferries and Cliff Steam Line out to the coast. There, they would take a ride that wound along the steep cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean to the place where part of the sea funnels into San Francisco Bay.
Strolling along this trail with my dog, Roo, on a beautiful May morning, 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 full-time job somewhere? My thoughts were all over the place, and none of them were pleasant.
I paused to wait for Roo, who was taking her time sniffing things. Gazing across the water to Marin Headlands in the distance, I noticed a hawk hovering at eye-level. Only, she wasn’t moving at all. Her wings were wide, yet she was completely still. She was riding the air current in complete stillness. Floating motionless in the sky, she was in a state of grace, of divine homeostasis. She hovered there as I gazed at her, and time stood still.
As I watched her, a voice in my head said, “Stay the course. No change. Stay the course. You are on the edge, but you will fly.” A feeling came over me that the wind was holding me up too. I experienced a moment of sublime peace watching her.
The Cooper’s Hawk
When I was in my 20s, I was on another walk, this time with the dog I had before Roo, whose name was Jojo. We were in my old neighborhood in Berkeley. Jojo paused at a bush and whimpered. Unlike Roo, who had super strong prey drive, 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 first, I wasn’t sure what to do. Then I remembered hearing about a bird rescue facility in Berkeley, so, I called them. 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 that day 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, ‘God, I feel so badly for him.’
She said, “Try not to feel bad. You lessened his suffering.”
Since that day in Berkeley, hawks have always been special to me. So, seeing the Lands End hawk hovering in stillness had a profound effect on me.
Of course, these two hawks did not exist to give me signs. They existed in their own 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 being seeing a fascinating bird. And on another, I felt they were guides in my soul’s journey here on Earth.
Throughout history, animals have meant many things to human beings. They have held powerful symbolic meaning to us, they have taught us about our world and ourselves. And we have treated them with both reverence and sadistic abuse. This post, and the posts I plan to write about spirit animals, will be about reverence. And in today’s world, I hope that my readers share this reverence and that it translates to protection.
I understand why people want to wear jewelry or t-shirts that have their favorite animals on them. Or why we want selfies with wild animals. And I understand why the idea of spirit animals resonates with so many of us – it’s a powerful kinship. I only hope that we can do a better job of turning our fascination with animals and this feeling of spiritual connection with them into meaningful action that protects them and allows them to live out their lives in freedom.