This Summer Solstice I awoke early, early enough to go out into the garden and, if not to sing the sun rise, at least to sing the sun’s appearance through the trees and over the house next door. I go out often to sing up the Sun, though not as often as some folks who know in their hearts that we co-create life with all of nature and that if someone doesn’t sing the sun up each morning, it might not return. Serious business, living on a fully alive planet earth in a fully alive and interconnected universe.
So there I was in the garden singing a song to the sun. As I began, “Morning Sun, Morning Sun; Come my way, come my way,” I was joined in song by one of the large crows that visit the garden for a splash-about in the birdbath. Well, they don’t really splash-about. They stand at the edge of the bowl, an imposing presence, dipping their big beaks into the water.
Anyway, that morning, when I was singing in the garden, a crow started to answer me. Or perhaps he was bringing me a message. Some bit of Crow knowledge. Maybe he was simply commenting on my voice the way we comment on theirs. So I sang “Morning Crow! Morning Crow! Come my way, come my way.” He did not come my way, but did put out a loud “caw caw.” So I continued the song. “Morning Crow, Morning Crow! You deliverin’ a message here today?” Another squawking “caw” and he flew away.
I don’t think of myself as a bird person. But I do try to pay attention. And I remember to pay attention especially when I’m out in nature. That is why we all need to spend time out there, to practice paying attention.
Here’s an old story of mine about a bird. I was walking down Highway 1 in Big Sur, California some years ago, heading from my cousin’s cabin where I was staying, to do a work exchange at Esalen Institute about a mile south along that gorgeous stretch of California Coast. I was enjoying the early morning air, filled with the scent of wild fennel, my eyes feasting on the Ventana Wilderness rising up to my left and the cobalt Pacific down below to my right, when I noticed that over my head was a red tailed hawk which had flown low and had begun to circle me. It was so low I could see its feathers, its beak. I just stopped dead in my tracks. I watched it as it reeled and circled. Then I started getting a little nervous and thought: maybe this guy is looking for lunch in my hair! I wasn’t too sure. The Hawk circled and circled. And circled.
You know how we human beings always have to be some where? We are so busy- busy all the time and that morning I was on my way to work. So, I thanked the bird for the gift of its presence and I walked away from that circling. I walked out of his circle.
The hawk flew on ahead of me and when I got down the road a ways, he began to circle me again. This time I stood still. I had no where I had to be but there. I watched until that hawk had finished with me. When he flew on off, I bowed and walk on down to Esalen.
That is a story I’ve told various times, the last time being this past Saturday night for a Solstice program I gave in a small amphitheater in Elena Gallegos Park on Sandia mountain overlooking Albuquerque, NM and the Rio Grande Valley. The sun was setting in its New Mexican, fireball form over the mountains west of us. There was a breeze, which kept the gnats at bay. We were up there to honor the Sun, the Light, and all our Relations. That is, the animals, birds, rocks, rivers, grasses, trees, even those gnats!
I began to tell my Big Sur Hawk story. I pointed to the sky, directing my listeners’ eyes to the hawk which had honored me that glorious morning so long ago in Big Sur. I lowered my arm and eyes and I noticed that the audience’s eyes stayed looking up. Some began to point. I looked up again. There above me was a red-tail hawk circling, right then, right there. The story of my California memory turned into the story of that New Mexico moment.
Had this hawk come to listen to the story about his California cousin? He stayed till I finished it, then flew away. Was he simply curious about the gathering of two-leggeds sitting on stone benches listening to the speaking, singing, and dancing one in front of them who was pointing skyward? Or was he, perhaps, bringing a message? I do not claim to know the answer to those questions. I merely report what happened.