The messenger

Red-shouldered hawk in a mahogany tree
Red-shouldered hawk in a mahogany tree

I have often seen a hawk overhead while driving down the main road in my new community – which, by the way, I am very much digging 🙂 .   I have seen the hawk crossing the road above me, zig-zagging from one tree on this side to the next tree on that side.  These are old-growth trees, oaks and mahoganies and others whose names I have not yet learned.  These are trees that tower, that spread their shade generously, and that provide abundant habitat for wildlife of all kinds.  I knew I’d been missing it, this life amongst old-growth trees, but I hadn’t known that I’d be this grateful to have it back, nor had I realized that gratitude can bring such joy. Life is good.

In the immediate vicinity of my home, it’s been red-bellied woodpeckers I hear and see the most, with an occasional visit from a pileated woodpecker blessed with a breath-taking wing span. It’s on the road that I’ve seen the hawk, soaring from tree to tree.  I think I’ve actually seen it at night, too. Coming home from the beach on Labor Day evening, it crossed in front of me in the darkened, way-past-dusky night, a bullet-shaped silhouette with wings, low enough for me to get a really good look and know for sure what it was.

There is a mailbox about a mile from the house, in the corner of an L-shaped strip mall. The parking lot is populated by mature mahogany trees, their branches just now “egging” up with green pods that will later turn brown and peel back in sections reminiscent of what’s left once a wedge of lime has been squeezed into a Corona.  I parked under one such tree this morning, and walked a small, first class package to the mailbox. When I turned to head back to the car, I saw the hawk, sitting on a lamp post in the hot, mid-morning sun, surveying it’s domain with bright-eyed, haughty posture.

Why hadn’t I grabbed the camera on my way out?  My original intention was to go on foot, but I’d waited too long, and it was already too hot by time I stepped out the door. The camera with 50x optical zoom sat uselessly at home while I flicked open the iPhone’s camera app.  Another car had been waiting for me to leave the shady spot, and I guess he was annoyed when I changed course, because he suddenly sped off and the hawk moved from the open parking lot to a mahogany close by. Yet another car came and parked next to me while I tried to get a shot, but the hawk kept moving around up there, obscured by branches and leaves. The woman exited her car and looked at me curiously. I explained about the hawk, and she remarked that she is always on the lookout for them when she walks her dog, and that she once saw one carrying a squirrel, which upset her greatly.  “Well, that’s what they eat….” I responded. She remarked that hawks are usually vocal, but this one was completely silent, and then she left me to my quest, entering one of the stores close by.

Perhaps not appreciating our conversation, the hawk moved from the tree to another lamp post across the parking lot, in the direction of the exit. Two employees of the store the woman entered came out to watch it for a few moments before returning to work.  I got into the car and drove slowly across the parking lot to give it one more try. I turned on the iPhone camera and opened the driver’s side window as I approached, and was able to fire off one more shot before it took off over the roof of an abandoned supermarket building (if there is one thing that is plentiful in Lee County, it’s empty retail space).

I drove the mile or so home, thinking about the hawk, wondering where the nest was, and when I would see it again. I reviewed in my mind the differences between the various types of hawks we see around these parts, and determined it was a mature red-shouldered hawk. Still thinking about the hawk, I parked the car and got out – and there was a hawk, swooping from the roof of the house to a tree in the little stretch of woods that separates this community from the next one.

Some Native American cultures think that a hawk shows up as a pre-messenger, a sort of a heads up that attention should be paid, that one should be on the lookout for good news.

Was it the same hawk? Did he follow me home? Is it significant that this is a hunter, a bird of prey, and so are swallow-tailed kites? For that matter, is it significant that I was also mailing a package during the final kite incident? I don’t know. But I’ll be sure to let all uh y’all know if I get any good news 🙂

PS – none of the pictures came out even remotely good. I’m posting the one where you can actually see it is a hawk. Perhaps the message is simply “ALWAYS bring the damned camera!” LOL