Journalcalling #10 – Hawk Guidance

Journalcalling   •   December 31, 2020

Photo credit: Brett Sayles

I was sitting on my deck in front of my laptop this summer, cringing and surging with adrenaline as I opened my website for the first time. had just gone live. 

Suddenly, straight ahead above my screen, a hawk was swooping toward me. She was flying in off of the river in my backyard. Hypnotized by its golden brown eyes tunneling at me, I could not move. Would she crash into my face? At the last second, she tilted her wide, ruffled wings and lifted above the table umbrella. Whoa. What the heck was that?

From a distance, I have seen many large birds in flight since I moved to the edge of the Salmon Falls River 21 years ago. I have risked being late to school more than once to stealthily slide from my running car to the edge of the bank where I had seen a blue heron perch. 

During the summer, as I paddled in my kayak, these prehistoric looking, indigo-winged birds seemed to play with me — skirting from tree to tree as I tried to quietly get near. Eagles have soared here heading downriver toward the sea, and now the mighty hawk had flown in  unexpectedly close. I had often admired them high in the sky as they floated on the thermals, and thought oh, to have that life! 

I looked up the symbolism. The hawk reminds us to take a broader vision and look at life as a whole, not just a singular moment. Look at the big picture and remember that the forces of the universe are always working in your favor. The hawk stands for creativity, rebirth, guardianship, fearlessness, protection and memory. Well, I thought, a wild yes to all of that.

I soon found myself reading H is for Hawk about the unnerving journey to tame a goshawk by Helen Macdonald and have enrolled in a course called Hawk: Heaven’s Visionary through the Center for Journal Therapy.

I was bent in a garden a few days after my near hawk-face collision when I heard what I thought was the rustling of squirrels in a tree. I turned to see large brown and gold speckled wings flapping in the limbs of a maple. There she was again so close to me. Moments later, I spied her on a higher branch with her kill, a squirrel hanging limp beneath her. She held my gaze again and remained still as I creeped closer to snap a photo. Then with her sharp, curved beak she pulled apart the gray pelt.

This felt like an initiation into the wild river land my house sits on. Sitting on my deck and opening my little business, I had plunked myself out there in a singular moment of creation, and maybe I could become part of this vast energy source. There will be wind and waves and maybe some birds of prey that threaten to toss me back. But, I am banking on the wings of fearlessness, rebirth, guardianship, protection and memory that hawk lore says will propel me.

Two weeks after the website went live, I impulsively retired from my teaching career that I had planned to keep for a few more years to dive into this. And now, with the journal writing workshops I’ve been able to offer these past few months, I’m in this new realm of authentic sharing, insight and compassion. It feels like a calling.