The hawk sailed over the tangled crown of the oaks, then turned in a wide arc so that his underbelly caught the gold of the afternoon light and spilled it over to me. I stood at the foot of the oak and marveled, as I always do, with such a sight. Then I heard the angry cry of a crow, and saw the fury of its black wings as it beat its way towards the hawk. Within seconds the one crow had summoned a murder of crows. They arrived in a storm of screams. I watched the hawk circle and soar as the crows surrounded him. Then even more crows arrived, and the whole scene departed from my view.
In this moment I knew that my winter was over.
I can’t explain why, exactly. Just that I saw in the sky the drama that had also been unfolding in my own inner landscape––a barrage of dark voices determined to scramble my path. And the hawk spirit said, I am taking this from you.
I know it’s been a hard winter, for so many, and in myriad ways. For some winter can bleed into spring, and sour the fruits of summer. The graceful wheel of the hawk may not appear over us. The Earth may seem mute.
But she is not. She is always speaking to us, in a language we think we’ve forgotten, but is etched into our bones. The hawk spirits and noisy crow families and bloodroots rising and the ancient river women all see deeply into us, and call us back into the circle of their story.
Maybe we can’t find our way to that sacred circle. Maybe we are lost. But so many have gone there before us, and left us their beautiful breadcrumb trails. For me, the past few weeks I’ve been following the trails of Joy Harjo, in “Poet Warrior,” and Walter Inglis Anderson, the great artist of the Gulf Coast. They helped me find my way, and I owe them my gratitude.
My winter is over, and the work has returned. In the studio I created this small scene of the bloodroot emerging from the cold leaf-littered ground. Even though these brave harbingers of spring aren’t here yet, hope has returned. It seemed appropriate to honor them with my attention. And also, this poem arrived on the pages of my journal.
You can listen to my reading “Fairy Tale” here, complete with a background of soft pug snores, because my pug Lola is with me everywhere.
You need this story.
It is a fairy tale; it does not matter.
Without it you will be lost.
It ends with the chitter of titmice,
and the imperceptible lift of green
under the cloak of the leaf-littered ground.
It begins with desolation,
the stark emptiness of the body,
bones frozen to the forest floor.
In between are fox tracks in the snow
and hawk feathers, tangled and torn.
In between is the grief of an empty riverbed,
the scant hope of gathering clouds.
Here on this moss blood was spilled.
Nearby a flute song fashioned from the resurrected bones.
Come to this place, the bones sing,
Come with your deepest hunger.
Where is this story?
Who tells it?
Take off your shoes,
the moss tends to the secrets now:
Give your body over to the Earth,
and welcome the Great Storyteller.
She resides in the joining.