Saturday, January 20, 2018


By Matt Tillett (Flickr: Cooper's Hawk) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

There was another hawk today, this time on the patio behind the farmhouse. I saw it fly down onto the back patio as Daisy dog and I were returning from the vet early this morning. Then the hawk took off and swept over us about three feet above my head, looking directly at me. It hesitated as if it were about to land in one of the big trees in the driveway, but then soared on and up and out of sight.

A hawk. Again. This time it was a Cooper’s Hawk. Or maybe a Sharp-shinned Hawk. They look a lot alike.

Beginning in about mid-November, I began seeing hawks everywhere – in the sky over I-30, in the trees in Oakland Park, soaring over Harris Hospital, on light standards beside highways and in store parking lots, even, once, in the birdbath right outside the big window where we sat to watch TV. Hawks don’t usually come to birdbaths.

I’m Irish, and Celtic lore is full of animal symbolism. Great meaning is attached to hawks. And the Celts aren’t alone in this - ancient Egyptian artists showed the human soul as a hawk that flew out of the body and lived on in that form. Hawk was sacred to the sky god Horus. The Greeks associated Hawk with Jupiter, first among the gods. The Celts associated Hawk with Bran the Blessed, a warrior, king, and god.

The old stories say that when a hawk appears, pay very close attention to everything, because hawks carry messages from Other Worlds. A hawk is a signal to both beware and be aware. Makes sense, doesn’t it, since a hawk is a formidable predator. One ignores raptors at one’s peril.

In the old stories, the appearance of a hawk means something important is about to happen, for good or ill, and you need to be ready to take action, to step up and lead. “A circling hawk foretold both victory and death,” Celtic lore site said. The Celts also believed a hawk was a sign that one needed to examine one’s life.

If the universe was trying to tell me something, it wasn’t being very subtle, was it? But ancient symbols aren’t much for subtlety.

So my beloved dies, I am left bereft, and hawks are still hanging around? God knows I’m paying attention. I am certainly examining everything, because if there’s one thing I know, it is that I cannot restart my life. I have to reinvent it, figure out a new way to be in the world as me alone, not as part of us.

Oh, he will always be part of me, for sure. But his hands are not there to reach for, his shoulder is not there to lean on, his eyes aren’t there to gaze into, his mouth is not there to kiss, his ear is not there to whisper into, his body is not there to lie next to in the night. His voice is not there to bookend each of my days with “Good morning, my love. What does your day look like?” and “Good night, my love. Sleep well.”

He no longer notes my coming in and my going out, no longer seeks me out in the garden with a drink to tell me he’s been missing me and shall we sit and talk for awhile?

Even as I move in the same spaces he so wonderfully inhabited, nothing is the same. And it will never be the same again.

So I choose to consider these current hawks as couriers sent by him, winged bearers of messages of love and courage and strength and vision.

Because God knows, I need them.

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