I still remember that cold afternoon that my friend and I slipped away from town and jumped the fence of a farmer's land to walk into the wooded area that bordered the fields. We split up, each of us taking a copy of a ritual we'd handwritten from Scott Cunningham's book (the only book we had), and made our first clumsy vows before the gods with pounding hearts terrified we'd be caught trespassing and meet the business end of a .22.
Right around that time I started seeing red-tailed hawks everywhere. I'd lived in the same town my whole life and never noticed them before (spirituality, as it's been said, being the fine art of paying attention to what matters), but from the day I first realized that this strange new religion was exactly what had eluded me in church my first sixteen years of life, hawks began to appear in disturbingly prominent places doing extremely prominent things like flying low alongside my car and turning to look me in the eye as I walked past the telephone pole where one was sitting. It was the first inkling I ever had that Someone was watching me, and cared for me. Looking back I'm not sure if it was Goddess or God that sent them (at the time I was basically Dianic so the idea that it might be Himself never occurred to me), but either way, I felt...loved.
After fifteen years of solitary rituals, group work, magical experiences, dark nights of the soul, spiritual crises, ecstatic moments, meditation, carved candles, charms, sticks of incense, and tattoos, they're back.
I spent the weekend in my hometown for an extended family Christmas and on the drive to and from Austin, I counted seven red-tailed hawks including one that flew directly at my windshield and missed hitting me by less than a foot.
One was standing in the middle of the road as I came around a curve. It had no prey, it wasn't hurt. It was just standing there, and made eye contact with me before making a short flapping hop off to the shoulder of the road. It didn't fly off, it just moved over.
This is the sort of thing that makes you sit up and listen.
I'm not really sure what my anniversary means this year. Tonight I should be doing my personal Yule ritual which is supposed to be my intention-setting time, but truthfully I don't know what to hope for or what to try and accomplish. I'm not even really sure who I'd be talking to. Up until today I wouldn't have expected Anyone to hear me or care.
I'm a skeptic in a lot of areas, but even I have to admit that something is afoot when the same kind of bird that haunted me fifteen years ago--exactly fifteen years ago--suddenly starts showing up again in the same ways and same places. I've seen plenty of hawks in the intervening years but never so many in two days making such an effort to get my attention. Last time they appeared like this, shortly thereafter I became Wiccan, and before long I moved to Austin and began this...adventure?...of a life. What, I have to wonder, are they portending now?
Googling came up with this page, which gave me some interesting thoughts on the subject although it's damned hard to read. I was particularly struck by the passage on maturity--the distinctive red tail feathers only come in after the hawk has attained a certain maturity. Seeing them the first time heralded a period of intense growth and new experiences for me, definitely a time of maturation (to a point, at least. I mean come on, I was 16 at the time, how mature could I get?). I may be due for another growth spurt.
Bring it on, baby.
PS - Okay, last time involved a lot of involuntary maturation and a lot of suckage. I'd appreciate it if this time my personal evolution could be the product of deliberate choice and work, and if the feathered critters could be letting me know that I'll be accessing the strength and will to make those changes soon instead of having to grow in response to catastrophe. If Santa could bring me a year without catastrophe, that would rock. Thank you, Universe, for your kind attention to this matter.
In the meantime: a blessed Yule to everyone. I'll be journeying back to the hinterlands again this week to spend more time with my family, but hopefully after that life will start to settle down and I'll have time to blog again now that I'm in better health and slightly less likely to fly apart at the seams and end up on the evening news.
Enjoy the longest night, stay warm, nog something. I personally don't advocate the nogging of eggs, but surely there are other things that can be nogged. Soy gets nogged this time of year too. Sounds kind of painful, but if there's nutmeg involved, I'm there.