Native Americans believed that each of us have an animal guide – often depicted in their totem poles and assumed to connect each of us with to the spirit world.

For several years, I’ve been fascinated with hawks. Specifically, the regal wings that survey the skies here in Eastern Tennessee – most often, the red-tailed hawk.

These solitary creatures seem to quiet my mind and slow me down a bit as they float with the wind or perch atop a tree surveying the fields like admirals watching a sea of life below them.

The Indian myths allude to these guides as messengers and hawks in particular are noted to usher change. Their shrill voices are often an indication there’s a message you should pay close attention to as they are associated with intel from the spirit world. I’m still thinking on that one.

Nevertheless, recently, there has been an escalation of these unusual moments where a hawk has appeared in my life. That’s not very common either as hawks are usually quite solitary and stay away from populated areas.

Besides discovering a few interesting poems about hawks, I experienced a strange face-to-face event this weekend that continues to raise questions in my mind. At the very least, I’m considering a tattoo to mark my interest in this creature.

The most unusual event happened this Labor Day weekend. I was riding a long 70 mile trek on the New River Trail in Virginia on my mountain bike. Besides sorting through the rapid-fire thoughts, I was also trying to outrun a Summer storm. What began as a sunny day quickly turned into a ticker-tape parade of leaves falling from the gusts of wind. Suddenly a strange bird catapulted across the trail and vanished into a ravine.

Despite the weather, I skidded my bike to a stop in the forest and looked to the edge to find a hawk that seemed injured and spread-eagle across a brushy hillside.

I grabbed my camera and was careful to descend the hillside to get a closer look and to my surprise, the hawk never moved. It seemed to have an injury that prevented it from flying and instead of bolting into the forest, the creature opened his mouth in a defensive position and stared at me with a stillness that held me spellbound.

It’s unfortunate that I couldn’t do much to help the bird which turned out to be a Cooper’s hawk from my best observation. With the approaching storm, all I could do was stare into the smoky grey eyes and marvel at the brown and white streaks across this bird’s chest and wings.

Lately, I’ve had plenty of thoughts about what time I have left in this world and it was obvious, this little guys days were numbered.

Along the trail, I’d been thinking about my friend Tim Strickler who recently died of cancer. Sitting with him on his hospital bed last week, I was reminded again about the value of time.

With his days in short supply, it brought into perspective my own hour-glass which crosses another year this week. It’s this memory along with this confrontation with this guide that suggests there something for me to learn here – something to pay very close attention to this week. I’m still trying to process those thoughts along the way because this year and has been littered with change and it hasn’t seemed to play itself out as I suspect – at least not yet.

My friend Tim died Monday afternoon September 5th at 3.30 in the afternoon. His time has ended on this Earth and my heart goes out to his wife, son and family. We all will share special memories about his life and his contribution to our own journey.

I wish I could have done something to help this hawk, but it was clear our meeting had some purpose, but I’m still trying to resolve that possibility.

In the meantime, hawks continue to surface as one did just yesterday in this poem from a book I’m reading my Maryln Chamber McEntyre.

This morning
the hawk
rose up
out of the meadows’ browse

and swung over the lake –
it settled
on the small black dome
of a dead pine.

alert as an admiral
its profile
distinguished with sideburns
the color of smoke.

and I said, remember
this is not something
of the red fire, this is
heaven’s first fistful

of death and destruction,
and the hawk hooked
one exquisite foot
onto a last twig

to look deeper
into the yellow reeds
along the edges of the water
and I said: remember

the tree, the cave,
the white lily of resurrection,
and that’s when it simply floated
its golden feet and floated

into the wind, belly-first
and then it cruised along the lake –
all the time its eyes fastened
harder than love on some

unimportant rustling in the
yellow reeds – and then it
seemed to crouch high in the air, and then it
turned into a white blade, which fell.

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