For Writer’s Island prompt #19 Breakthrough
It happened again. We had another visitor, the night before last. I had gone over to my daughter’s and asked if she wanted to come back with me to help me clean up some glitches on my computer. When I pulled into the apartment complex parking lot, I noted a few people outside at the far end of the lot where I live.
I pulled into my usual spot, the one closest to the door. Shut off the car and was gathering up some purchases, while Sara got out of the car. I heard her speak in a friendly voice, “Well, hello there.” I assumed she was speaking to my neighbor in the building, an older woman, whose patio faces into the lot where my car was parked.
“Ahh, Mom, you need to look at this,” my daughter said in a soft, somewhat awe filled voice. I looked up and perched on the railing of the balcony, about eight feet above us, was a large, really large hawk. She was peering down, rather nonchalantly at my daughter, sort of casually gave me a nod, then stepped off her perch, spread her wings and flew away.
I noticed several things at once. Before she stepped off the balcony railing, I had gotten the impression that the main color on her back and wings was gray. Her underbelly and the under side of her wings, which seemed huge at such close range, were almost completely white with a few darker splashes of gray, as well. Then I became aware of the hushed silence in the parking lot.
The three or four people, who had been standing around, were stilled and simply watching what might have been a first-time close encounter for them. My daughter and I looked across the car at one another and grinning, both spoke at the same time, “Gyrfalcon,” I said, as she almost sang out, “Two of them, now, two of them in such a short space of time!”
She, of course, was speaking of the bald eagle she had spotted in my tiny backyard the week before, while I was identifying our present visitor. The world seemed to close it’s surprised mouth and once again went into action. We walked into the building, while others drove away slowly, or continued on whatever errands had been forgotten in that moment of recognition.
My daughter and I discussed it later after we got settled in. I teased her about the fact that my energy levels were extremely high lately and the birds must be drawn to that energy. She insisted that I please remember that she was the one who had seen them first, and I would have missed them completely if she hadn’t pointed them out to me. And she was absolutely correct.
We then talked about the specific meanings of such close encounters. In the world of symbolism, all birds are considered spiritual messengers because they are constantly moving in the space between earth and the heavens. Thus, they are often viewed, in symbolic terms, as the vehicles for the transport of messages between those two realities.
The messages pertain to the individual species and are found in their habitats, coloring, and behaviors. Thus, a woodpecker that drums on dead trees and sends an echo through wooded places, can be seen as a messenger of forthcoming confrontation, perhaps even battle or war, because of the red color, often with a mixture of black and white, on its body. But, that red color also speaks of creative fire, so the message may concern a confrontation with self about a choice between creative activity versus more practical ones.
As I said in my essay last week ( Eagle As Spirit), the eagle is a symbol of spirit and freedom, the ability to rise to the occasion and perform tasks that might otherwise be considered beyond the reach of the normal. The message of the hawk is about remembering who one really is, beneath all the social and interactive behavior we engage in. That person with individual thoughts, beliefs, wants and desires, that inner individual.
Ahh, but back to the present story. The next day, as I was commenting on someone else’s current poem about wings and flight, I suddenly remembered that I hadn’t asked the Gyrfalcon what her name was. She was immediately in my mind, wings spread out above me as I looked up and she looked down at me, and she said, “My name is Grace.”
My Mother passed away on April 30th, of this year. She was 91, and had had a full and rich life, and was deeply cherished by those of us left behind. And yet, these past summer months have been bracketed by three different encounters with unusual birds. So much so, that I could easily define these past months as the Summer of Feathered Messages.
Although my daughter was present for the last two encounters, I was alone when I saw the first one: a Pelican. That message is about buoyancy, the ability to dive into the darker aspects of life, and grab what will nurture whatever travels take one into the future. That particular story can be found at
Taken altogether, those messages are potent. The buoyancy needed to traverse the landscape of grief with a spirit of freedom and the ability to remember who I really am. And what’s more, that is exactly what this summer has been for me.
With sudden endless hours of time on my hands, after my Mother’s death, I found myself on my computer. There, I stumbled onto a circle of writing and poetry prompts that have been life giving and incredibly nurturing. I have once again, reestablished my love of poetry and eagerly participated in that circle. I have been enriched ten-fold by meeting new people, poets and writers that have fed me with their words, their poems, their comments. And I have been given the grace necessary to create a new life, one that celebrates who I really am, have always been, and am still becoming.
In searching back in my files for the Pelican story, I found a quote by Emily Dickinson:
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune–without the words,
And never stops at all,
Death, especially the death of a beloved parent, is a journey for those left to go on with life. The end of that journey is a recommitment to life, to the hope that life will go on, will continue to grow and to evolve. Mine has certainly done so. When I look at all of those messages I find I can only be grateful to a Universe that gave me this Summer of Feathered Graces.