As if to celebrate a morning bright with sunshine, the trees were full of birdsong. On the porch soft, warm breezes stirred my newspaper and set the newly budded hydrangea bushes dancing. The perfect beginning to a beautiful day…
Suddenly, the birdsong stopped. Not diminished, not lessened—stopped. The morning was so silent that even the breeze seemed to be holding its breath.
What on earth? I got up, scanned my garden and saw sitting on a branch just above the bird feeder, a handsome, golden-brown hawk… waiting. Waited with its wonderful, fierce head slightly bent and its talons gripping the branch with a deadly force that could snap a bird’s neck. Watching, holding my breath for its beauty and with fear that some young cardinal might cheep and give itself away, I stayed motionless until quite suddenly the great raptor spread wings and launched itself away from the branch.
One breath, two… and then the birdsong began again. Soft at first, tentative… has it gone? Are you sure it won’t come back? Did we escape this time?… and then bolder and even brighter than before. The danger had passed; all was well.
There is always a hawk in the trees—somewhere—for us all. Sometimes the threat is visible, a howl of black wind, a monstrous, moving wall of destruction that falls from the sky and screams across the ground to destroy everything in its path.
We have seen this happen to communities with names we recognize and often love and when the wind picks up and the sky darkens and the alert sounds for us to take cover, we cower in the safest place we can find and hope for deliverance.When we are spared, if we are spared, we wonder: has it gone? Did we escape this time?
Sometimes, the hawk in the tree is internal, an illness that sinks its claws deep into our bodies. Sometimes it is a fear that gnaws at us, a paralyzing anxiety that we just aren’t good enough as artists, or writers, or parents. Sometimes this fear has no name or face, just an ooze of unease that comes when we are most vulnerable.
Four in the morning seems to be the witching hour for me, a time between darkness and dawn when the mind races and sleep seems to be a million miles away. And when morning comes at last, I shake my head at my own foolishness and hush the thought that whispers, are you sure it won’t come back?
I can’t be sure—no one can, least of all the birds that now sing and scold their young and flock to the birdfeeders as if their world holds no threat or sorrow. Yet here they are and here they sing for the sun is golden in the arc of a pure-blue sky, the breeze is soft and warm, and the hydrangeas will soon burst into bloom.
And we can all believe that life is good.
In the warm stillness
It waits, watches, listens…
Hungry golden hawk.