Dead Eye

Went for a hike with a friend who has a shit storm following him. He vows to read no sad books, see no sad movies. There's plenty enough death, disease and distress in his life as it is. Why add? Yet, he listens to my tale of woe. Sympathizes. 

I tell him I like hawks. We look for them and he finds it interesting since his father was a bird expert and he misses his father. He thinks it a coincidence. Or not.

And so we look for hawks and talk about their perspective. We talk about boundaries. He has set boundaries firmly in place and I admire that. They make sense. All very logical. Where are my boundaries? Meditation provides connections but I'm afraid it's no help at all for setting up roadblocks or caution signs or borderlines. Everything becomes connected and lines of demarcation blur then disappear altogether.

He points out a hawk flying overhead. I look and look and look, but I don't see it. 

I tell him I'll send him the Jack Gilbert poem I love best, "A Brief for the Defense." He says he won't read it if it's sad. I say it is sad, but it 's important. It's about how we must risk delight in spite of it all.

We finish our hike and I walk him to his car. He shows me a plastic hawk he's bought to thwart off the robin that's left layers of bird droppings all over the hood and bumper of his station wagon. It's a sad replica of an imperial bird. There's none of the majesty you feel when you see the enormity of the real thing, the way it makes you gasp and feel as if somehow something that is this terrible and this powerful makes something worthwhile even if you don't know what that something is.

I send him the poem even though I know he won't read it and even though his car is covered in bird shit and the plastic hawk has dead vacuous eyes forever void of delight.



Hawk Man

IMG_1722 Whenever I see a hawk, I stop and think about perspective. Somehow, I'm always in need of new perspective. Every day. I seek out hawks. Scan the sky for them. Not this time. This hawk sculpture composed of shells, coconuts husks and withered palm branches stretches just above a sand shelf alongside the ocean. He is magnificent and powerful and unexpected. I met his creator - The Hawk Man of Iowa. Hawk Man has devoted his life to studying and understanding these raptors. He was shy to disclose he has studied the language of hawks, uses their spirituality to enhance his spirituality. He composed this sculpture as a way to deal with grief.

It was my honor to have a chance to meditate soon after I came upon this hawk outline in the sand. Grief is an aerial acrobat. It soars, dives, and circles at dizzying heights. The talons of grief are strong.


Possum possibilities

The muskrat, I now realize was a possum. The possum is causing me an unreasonable amount of anxiety and although I try to meditate it away, he infiltrates my dreams in various animal forms. They walk on water-unaware it is impossible to do this- and  through their lack of awareness, they perform the impossible. In my awake life, as I was driving and  only a block away from home, I noticed  a dead possum, its long tensile tail trailing along the edge of the road and curling up the curb. Whenever I see the hawk, I always feel like he is the same hawk who comes to visit me and encourage me to have a new perspective. But this dead possum, I don't know if he's the same guy who hid out in my garage the other night. I don't know at all.


No muskrat love

Last week, I saw the hawk up close. He hovered low, just a few feet away from me, then hopped on the ground and disappeared into the woods. He was close enough for me to appreciate his size and his size startled me plenty. It is unnerving to be that close to a hawk, but it's also thrilling and since I have started meditating, I take every hawk encounter as a symbol of something important. I never know what it means, but it is intriguing to try and figure it out. The meditation practice lets me be more in tune with the natural world. I notice more because I pay more attention. Then a couple of days ago when I pulled into my garage after dark, my headlights lit up the beady eyes of an animal with a long tensile tail, a rat tail. This rat was larger than any rat of any nightmare. Rodents scare the shit out of me.  We stared at each other for a few minutes before he decided to scurry away under a couch I am temporarily storing in there. It gave me enough time to decide that the animal I was locked in a staring contest with was a muskrat220px-Willard_1971

I was terrified to get out of my car and walk the few feet to the connecting door of my house. I did it, but it wasn't graceful. It occurred to me to check into a hotel, but instead I barricaded the bottom of the door jamb with steel wool and ran upstairs to cower in my bedroom. It didn't help that dozens of calls to my husband Joe's cell phone went unanswered. By the time he got home, I had worked myself up into a most unmeditative state.

It is not so pleasant to think about what the meaning of crossing paths with a muskrat amounts to. A hawk soars overhead in capacious circles of open sky; a muskrat scurries and has that disgustingly long awful tail.  I am nervous every time I walk back into my garage and I am finding no peace with the rat. If that hawk in any kind of a friend, he'll have muskrat for dinner tonight.

Fly Away

I saw the hawk fly away from me for the second time this week. The first time, I was close enough and and he soared low enough for me to appreciate his size. If we stood next to each other, this animal would practically come up to my waist. I should say bird, not animal, but when I get close to the hawk I never think bird; I think large animal. For me, birds are trivial. They're background noise or a splash of color. The hawk is something substantial. Purposeful, intelligent, indestructible.

This morning, I only managed a glimpse before the hawk disappeared from my view over the lake across the way. I wanted to yell, Come back, but I didn't. I knew he wasn't interested in doing my bidding. Usually he's flying over my head or he may stop and perch on a weathervane or street sign and take a good long look at me. But this week, I've only seen him fly off and disappear from my sight.

The boy I tutor in the Juvenile Detention Center got to go home this week. I wonder about him and hope he will find a path to learn to read. When I think about him, it feels  much like watching the hawk fly away, hoping it would turn back and give me a clear sign about something. But the hawk doesn't roll like that. He flies low, he soars high, and I'm left to wonder what he's trying to tell me.20120530-161015.jpg


Just before I left my house for the Juvenile Detention Center where I tutor a functionally illiterate seventeen-year old boy, the hawk flew over my head, landed on a tree branch, and took a good long look at me. Omen? Why not? On my way to Juvie, I stopped at the book store to purchase a high interest/low level reader for Edward. I was hoping to find something about basketball. There's not much that Edward and I have in common, but we're both from Cleveland and we both love basketball and by default, we're both a little obsessed with Lebron James. Edward once shook Lebron's hand at a water park and I once had a letter published  in a local paper where I asked Lebron to stay. After Lebron broke up with the city of Cleveland on national TV, I've tried to ignore him. But Edward is still a fan. He told me he was happy  for Lebron to get a championship ring and I couldn't help but be impressed with Edward's magnanimity.

Barnes and Noble does not stock high interest/low level books, so I browsed the children's books. Stuck in the middle of the WHO WAS Biographies Series for children was this:

On the Court with Lebron James by Matt  Christopher

When the universe speaks to me, I listen. I bought the book.

I didn't have a chance to read with Edward today. Just after I arrived, he was called away to get an update on his sentence. A worker chatted with me while I waited. Ms. Foree was one of the kindest people I've met at the center. She asked if she could help Edward and I showed her the book.

I never did get a chance to work with Edward. When he came back, he was too shaken up to be able to concentrate. Mrs. Foree offered to read with Edward tonight. I hope he finds some solace there. It's the least Lebron can do.

The Hawk Returns: Days One Hundred Forty Three - One Hundred Fifty-Six

I haven't seen the hawk for several weeks. Then, a couple of days ago, I heard a familiar caw caw caw caw caw. I ran outside and just caught a flutter of large wing sift along the tree tops. Yesterday he (or she, not sure) was perched on the peak of my roof. We looked at each other for a moment. "Tell me," I said, but my hawk just stared. No response. No flutter of wings, just a stare down.  We have a relationship now, my hawk and I.  I have no affinity towards birds.  Pet birds, hostages in their cages, their little beaks poking out between the bars, make me nervous.  But this hawk is a magnificent creature and the fact that it chooses to set up shop on my roof makes me wonder about his perspective on my life.    Not that I should assume he has one, but I like to think he thinks about me as much as I think about him. As far as my meditation practice goes, it has gotten a bit spotty in that I no longer meditate daily even though I consider myself to be someone who meditates on a regular basis.  I skip days here and there, but never am away from it for more than three days.  If I miss three days, I start to feel unsettled and uncentered. That implies that I have become a centered person and really that's not the case.  I'm more focused and more centered than I was before I began to meditate, but my desk is still a mess, I watch too much TV, and my reading to-do list grows in geometric proportion to the number of books I finish reading.  Oh, and my golf score is horrendous.  This list of non-accomplishments goes on and on, but for twenty minutes each day, I allow myself to not attach to the critical rampage that goes on in my head.  There's always time enough for that later.