Look Up

This is a post I wrote for my new professional blog. I love my new template, but squarespace is so buggy that I frequently want to slam my head on the desk. After finishing and publishing this piece, my images suddenly disappeared. Whoosh! So I’ll share with you here and hopefully be able to have my pro site up and running before I throw my computer out the window.

For the winner of the chart analysis giveaway, scroll down to the bottom of this post!

Kee-yah! Kee-yah!

The hawk had been flying above our neighborhood all morning, circling over our house, the projects across the street, the tiny park with its stand of old pines and monterey cypress.

I LOVE the way light shines through the wing-tips of birds of prey. Like they are powered by illumination.

My daughter and I know this park well. Situated on top of a little hill and surrounded by tall trees, it has a secret quality. The east side of the hill faces away from the street, with a hidden meandering path and community garden at its base. It has been my backyard for 17 years and my little girl marches around it in comfortable belonging.

On this particular day we had headed over in the late morning, with no agenda but to play. Kee-yah, Kee-yah called out our friend and as we crested the top of the hill, an answering voice came from the trees to our right…kee-yah, kee-yah. The call was the same but the tone was younger, tinged with need and concern. A juvenile.

My own juvenile made a bee-line for the playground while I stalked the young hawk, quietly walking under the trees, craning my neck to peer through the thick branches. Two of the trees had recently been cut down, and my favorite, an old pine, had its death sentence notice taped around its trunk. The hawk was blocked from my view, but I knew it was in this doomed tree because of three hummingbirds who took turns dive-bombing one of the top most branches. Like it was being hunted by angry mosquitos, the hawk’s call became more plaintive. I imagined it was similar to the cry my daughter makes when we are annoying her…Stop it! Stooooppppp iiiiiiit.

Suddenly alighting on the corner of the tall apartment building adjacent to the tall trees, the adult hawk ceased its circling and the baby ceased its cry. Look! I called to my daughter The hawk is up there now! Ate age four, she has already learned that wildlife in the city is commonplace when she’s hanging out with mom. Yeah, wow she faked, 4 going on 13.

But from behind me I heard an answer in enthusiasm. One of my neighbors from the projects across the street was out walking his pitbull. I know a lot of my neighbors, and yet there is an invisible, but distinct, line in the middle of the street between our sides. There is turf, and you don’t go on it unless invited.

Aw yeah! he said That hawk been flyin’ around all morning, calling out. And at the same we both pointed and said,

Because the baby is in that tree.

We gave each other startled smiles, finding ourselves unlikely allies.

I returned to the playground, pushing the kid on the teeter totter. Up. Down. Up. The adult hawk from the building spread out its wings and leapt off the edge, gliding fiercely and silently down, swooping right above our heads and grabbing a perch in a tree not 10 feet from the playground fence. Kee-yah and here comes the juvenile, landing even closer. Even the four year old was awakened out of her jadedness. So close. Right there. Wow.

They stayed in this spot for 45 minutes, long enough for me to soak in the wonder and then to yank myself away to other duties, like helping my daughter pick crabapples and finding the softest heads of fuzzy wild grass. Tired from our endeavors, we took a seat on a bench towards the bottom of the garden. Our friends remained in the tree.

Entering the park with palpable enthusiasm, a very tall gentleman in a jumpsuit and bleached blond hair walked stealthily to the base of the tree and slowly took out his digital camera. I felt protective. Don’t scare away my friends.

He stood in communion, then walked respectively away. He made eye contact and a bright smile illuminated his face. Walking towards us he said, Did you see that? There’s a hawk in that tree! I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in this park.

I was tempted to tell him all about the different species of hawk I’ve seen nest here over the years. But that would have been me wanting to teach. Instead I wanted to listen and encourage his wonder. It’s special when you see something like that, isn’t it I said.

We began to chat. He was sorrowful about the tree slated to be cut down. He showed me a piece of dried sap in his hand, I took a piece, as a reminder. I live in that tall apartment building, and that tree is right outside my window. I feel like I’ve been protecting it, like I’ve been friends with it all these years. When the other two were cut down, I didn’t realize it until I came home that day and looked out my window. I almost cried. He said this last bit with an apologetic shrug.

Of course you might feel like crying, I said. You had a relationship with those trees. It doesn’t mean any less just because they aren’t human.

His eyes softened. Deciding I was trustworthy, he opened up more. Through our conversation, we realized we’ve lived in the hood for the same amount of time. Neighbors all these years, and just now meeting. We shared memories of how things had changed, how the garden and park had changed, the neighborhood fixtures, from then and now. We learned each others names.

Before leaving the park that day, my partner swung by to bring the camera, having answered my own plaintive call, OMG the hawks in the park are so close. Where’s the camera when I need it!?! While my daughter dumped sand out of her shoes, I grabbed a few shots. At first the hawk flew a few branches away, slightly nervous with the mechanical clicking, with the excitement that radiated from all around my being. I quieted my energy down, put the camera away. I brought all that jubilation into my heart and offered it to this other being, as a thank you. As a prayer.

Harassing the wildlife.

Coopers and Sharp-shinned Hawks are common in this park, but this is actually a Red Shouldered Hawk. My inner Teacher really can’t help herself.


My new friend visibly relaxed as I gave this heart offering. We enjoyed each other in mutual curiosity for a few more moments. For an hour. For a lifetime.

Then my daughter and I headed home. Just another day in our magical life, with wonderment and inter-connection for all.

Look up.

Moa, you are my lucky lady! I’m so glad to meet you, my secret reader from Sweden. You gave me your three signs, but if you could send me your birth info (day, year, place, time) I would like to look at house placement too. Send to terrallectualism at gmail dot com.


3 thoughts on “Look Up

  1. What a beautiful bird! We don’t have those here in Sweden. Although my dad is an ornithologist (semi-professional), I’m not terribly good at bird species. I think I could probably only name four or five different birds of prey if I saw them in flight, well except for owls, but you scarcely see them. 🙂 I would have been so happy to see that hawk up close.

    I can sympathize with your neighbour who lost the trees outside his window. That happened to me too, and it was such a nice tree. An old, huge honey locust, very exotic for Sweden, with white fragrant flowers in the Spring that looked just like wisteria. They cut it down and I don’t know why. They also cut down my childhood forest – I was so confused when I came to visit my parents and went for a walk. Not only did the cutover look heartbreaking, but I got lost for the first time since I was about 5, because I couldn’t find my way anymore. Everything looked different! Big holes in the ground everywhere from heavy machinery (why oh WHY can’t they at least cut the trees in the winter when the ground is frozen, that way you could still walk there, even if it looks sad – if a landowner can wait 60 years to take down a forest, I think he or she could wait for 6 more months in order to not completely ruin the forest floor.)

    On a positive note, I’m actually a little giddy that I won! Blushing, even. I’ll send you my birth info right away.

  2. beautiful!

    we have a small eucalyptus grove behind our neighborhood and over the last three years since we’ve moved in about 50% of the trees have been removed. it’s so depressing and actually makes me sad everyday when i drive by.

  3. mary!

    your professional blog is so beautiful and strong and creative! i think future clients will be intrigued. that cover photo is amazing….
    plus, your bird ID skills are inspiring me to do better. i love that you KNOW the raptors in your back yard, and the plants, and song birds, and insects, in your city.

    you know how wild it is, how wild we all are!


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