It rained hard here last weekend, over one inch in less than 24 hours. I stayed home on Saturday, watching the water sheet off of the hill behind the house and exit the French drain down to the street. Rain continued intermittently on Sunday, when I ventured out across the valley to an early afternoon social engagement.
When it was time to return home, I decided to take the “long way”, sticking to small roads to check out the wildlife activity in our area. The snow geese are flocking in by the hundreds now. One can spot families of Canada geese, who are now pairing off in committed couples and settling on nesting territories to raise their broods. Last year was a bumper year for them, some had clutches with more than 12 chicks. When I see these geese pairing up, it reminds me of Spring…
I saw a large bird in the center of road, probably struck and killed by one of many large trucks that transect this lonely part of northeastern California. I pulled over to the side of the road, and went to remove the bird to place it in an adjoining field. It was a large Rough-legged Hawk and it appeared to have been lying on the road for some time. It was soaked through, feathers dripping with water. I lifted the bird off of the tarmac and walked to the nearby pasture, placing it just inside the fence line.
Walking back to my car, I noticed some of its feathers scattered along the roadside. I think they may have come off the bird upon impact. I walked along and gathered them up one by one. The feathers were in very poor shape … soaking wet and split apart. I went to place them with the hawk but as I bent down over the fence, I heard the words “Remember me”.
“Remember you?” I asked aloud as I looked at the ruined feathers in my hand. “I will try,” I spoke gently as I turned to go, laying the feathers carefully in the front seat of my car…..
How does one “Remember” an animal one has never met before? I kept turning that question over in my mind. I had no particular use for the feathers, but laid them out to dry in my bedroom. I looked at them at night when getting ready to retire, and would see them in the morning when I turned them over to assist the drying process. The edges of the feathers were shaggy, torn apart by the forces of the accident, the wind and rain. So, what did I need to learn and Remember about this creature?
Rough-legged hawks are a true arctic species …. Say what? They are from the North? Yes. They evolved under arctic conditions. They nest on cliffs, although pairs have been known to exploit other nesting areas like trees at the fringe of forests or on human-made structures. In winter, these hawks concentrate in open areas reminiscent of their tundra summer haunts, including pastures, marshy areas, and wet meadows … and that is exactly the habitat in which I found this bird.
Feather anatomy 101 (looking up info on the internet) validated that the feathers I collected were 6 secondary wing feathers (3 from each wing) and 1 tail feather and a few “downy” ones that were fluffy and soft. The purpose of the secondary feathers in a bird wing is to sustain the bird in the air by giving it “lift”. The tail feathers on a bird are analogous to the rudder of a ship or boat. They help them steer and maneuver while flying, as well as provide stability as they take-off and land. The downy feathers are usually located on the belly and provide thermal insulation, keeping the bird warm in winter months.
Last Wednesday, an impression came to mind to make a ritual fan for smudging sage with the feathers. Stranger ideas have come to me before … why not this project? To tell the truth, I really have not embraced spiritual rituals in my life. I may wave around a smoldering bundle of sage to freshen the house or leave tobacco or apples as a gift when walking in Nature. Yet I have not really introduced spiritual ritual in any form. I have set up an altar in my room, but only spend a cursory examination of it a couple of times during a day.
What I know about personal altars is that they are a place to hold prayers and intentions, as well as a focus for expressing and “Remembering” love and connection to Spirit… a place where non-ordinary reality is held within ordinary reality. Also a “Remembering” place of my ancestors, of my relationships within the Planetary Family, and what it means to Walk in Beauty as a true Human Being… “Remembering”….
This bird has truly given me profound lessons through its gift of feathers:
(1) It has validated my walk in the North of the Medicine Wheel, in Wisdom;
(2) I am encouraged to initiate a regular pattern of “Remembering” each day;
(3) Trust the rudder of Spirit as my guide, it will sustain and lift me in the flight of my remaining Journey;
(4) And to “Remember” my other Relations in Nature. To embrace them as guides and reflections of my own Heart….
These past 3 weeks walking with Talks with Relations, the first Clan Mother of the full moon, has been a Teaching. Just a little more illumination and understanding about how absolutely everything in Nature communicates through mirroring and direct teaching through example. I welcome the gifts of Wolf and Hawk. I now know to begin at the beginning … to seek and restore Harmony within myself and to “Remember” to honor the connection to my other kin with recognition and gratitude….