West Virginia Morning: Red-shouldered Hawk

There is a pair of red-shouldered hawks mating in the meadow behind our house. This morning, as I poured the coffee, I heard the distinct key-yeear, key-yeear, echoing in the sky. I quickly put down my mug and moved to the bay, searched the sky for the wide-winged soar. I spotted him just in time to see him land in the top of one of the walnut trees, where his mate awaited. I watched for several breath-stopping moments as they stilled, side-by-side, communicating who knows what kind of intimacies?

Hawks are monogamous and red-shouldered hawks often nest in the same area from year-to-year, sometimes reusing the same bundle of sticks labored over strenuously in past years. As far as I know, this is the first year this couple have graced us with their presence, so I was careful to stay still, out of sight, in fear they might determine our little meadow a lackluster place to raise their brood.

I watched, barely daring to breath, until they departed—the male with his boastful cry, the female in smooth silence. Even after they left I continued to search the sky, willing their return, longing for a closer glimpse of feathered beauty. This is not the first time I’ve seen these lovelies. Last week, before we took Ted back to school, he came clamoring down the stairs one afternoon.

“Mom, did you see that guy?” he asked, pointing out the window into the back yard. There, perched in the maple tree, was the Mister, greedily eyeing all my little finches who were enjoying my feeder. He was so close I could see his red shoulders. I could see the individual feathers on his rusty breast. I must have swooned because I could see the precise moment he noticed me watching through the window. It was an almost imperceptible twitch of his eyebrow before the most magnanimous lift-off. Suddenly, I was the air under his wings, lifting, lifting, until full in flight.

This is what it means to be fully present in a moment. How can I keep my eyes from searching the sky?

West Virginia Morning: Listen

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I slept until nearly eight a.m. this morning, which is unusual on my days off—so many things to be done. Jeff has been sleeping a little later on these days too—he’s in-between jobs right now, focusing on contract work, which has a more flexible schedule. I’m growing fond of having his body still heavy beside me in the wee hours of morning, reaching over to find him there when he is usually gone. Something about his presence lulls my sleep into a happy state of prolong.

But I am lifted out of sleep by a soft rain whispering against the roof today. There is nothing to stop me from stepping out in it; so I do, with Bonnie, and every baptized leaf is a mirror for the white light of morning.

In Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg says that writing is “90 percent listening.” I think of this as I my feet visit the font of grass in our back yard. “You listen so deeply to the space around you that it fills you,” she says.

When we were on holiday, a Brown Thrasher became familiar with the quiet of our empty yard. Usually shy, these birds with the brown-spotted breasts get their name from the robust way they search for food in the underbrush, thrashing about in search of insects or fallen berries and nuts. While we were away, this young bird has grown bold, foraging on our open lawn, grousing about under my finch feeder for fallen tidbits of sunflower.

This morning I glimpse him as we round the house, taking wing at just the hint of our presence. He disappears behind the lilac bush and I wait, listening.

“If you can capture the reality around you,” Natalie says, “your writing needs nothing else. You don’t only listen to the person speaking to you across the table, but simultaneously listen to the air, the chair, and the door. And go beyond the door. Take in the sound of the season, the sound of the color coming in through the windows. Listen to the past, future, and present right where you are. Listen with your whole body, not only with your ears, but with your hands, your face, and the back of your neck … This kind of deep, nonevaluative listening awakens stories and images inside you.”

Again, the quick thrum of wing pushing against invisible air, the soft landing and swish of a light-studded lilac branch. Metallic scent of rain, thick with clover, wet grass licking my ankles. The moist air clings to my skin and I bisect the earth rushing beneath me, a vertical axis with no beginning, no end.

Listen. Listen. Listen.

What do you hear?

 

Playdates: Invitation

The wine glasses were filled and Patrick wanted salt and our professor ordered scotch and I spilled a glass of ice water on Susan’s lap. It had been a long day—with travel and much sitting and taking of notes and such. But the conversation fed us like bread straight from the oven and the warmth was like a fire that we all held our hands out to.
No one wanted the evening to end.
That’s when Betsy’s eyes found mine across the table and she said softly, “For me, times like these are playdates with God.”
I smiled, nodded silently, and our eyes held right there for an instant.
Can’t every moment be? Isn’t this awakening in my soul an attention process? I am listening for the God-voice. And when my spirit stirs with the whisper, I must remember to ask, “Shall we?”
We.
He and I.
And this simple asking for accompaniment…this makes life a series of love stories—one great adventure after another.
Because the Divine always comes along when invited. And this Presence makes me brave. How else could I do the crazy things I do? This is what it means to fall in love—leaving all other thought behind except the Beloved. I hold this Image in my mind, I look forward to time we can spend together—alone. But the joy of the Divine love is that it is always present. All I need do is attend to awaken to this mystery.
Andre Dubus says that it would be madness to try to live so intensely as lovers that every word and every gesture between us is sacrament. But even he acknowledges there is a way.
…We can do what the priest does, with his morning consecration before entering the routine of his day; what the communicant does in that instant of touch, that quick song of the flesh, before he goes to work. We can bring our human, distracted love into focus with an act that doesn’t need words, and act which dramatizes for us what we are together…(On Charon’s Wharf)
Dubus refers to the sharing of a simple meal as an act that becomes the tangible representation of the indescribable: love.
Abide in me, Jesus says.
The action that leads to this place need not be a complicated one. So long as God is invited into the moment. In this way it becomes holy.

How about you? How do you embrace the God-joy? Every Monday I’ll be sharing one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find Him. Be with Him. And come tell us about it.

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Sharing with L.L. Barkat today also:

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