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?

Liquid Sky

My husband returns to work this morning and when the alarm gives its earnest cry, this body responds as to an emergency. And isn’t it just? Parting after so many days filled with shared moments? Even for a few hours, just a short day, he says; I don’t want him to leave. I rise just to listen to the way the weight of his steps shift my world.

While he showers and makes ready, I watch red move like water over the sky. Nascent light leaks through the edge of the horizon and just like that, the night is shed. I remember how my mother would wake before the light—make the coffee, pack my father’s lunch, and move like a ghost through our home. I was a shadow—how I could creep—and I found her, quiet, sitting at the kitchen table after his departure. Did she feel this sort of empty then?

My parents, long separated and remarried, did they feel this burning in their hearts for each other once? As I watch the liquid sky, I think how love can move this way too—silently seeping out the cracks of our horizons, shedding dark, shedding light … only those with open eyes to bear witness.

I promise myself I will keep my eyes open. I will gather up these liquid moments in the cup of my heart and carry them into all the days. When the days hum back to normal and parting seems no longer an emergency … I will bear witness to love.