The hawk swung itself around in a series of long, lazy loops in the sky. His pace seemed leisurely; he cruised over the lake content to wait out a surfacing fish. Why should he do all the work? Every few minutes he sounded a strange bleat, which is what drew my attention upward. The call was not a typical hawkian cry—sharp, powerful, piercing. Nor was it the kind of persistent call traded between a mate or with an off-spring, one that translates in every language as either “wait until your father gets home” or “quit nagging, I said I’ll do it later!” This cry was guttural, short, what a shrug might sound like.
At first I thought the hawk might be sick or wounded, its chatter was so strangely anemic. Then I saw it: a crow. A small black bird not even half the size of the hawk tailed the larger bird, tracing its elliptical path. The crow flew in tandem with the hawk for a few seconds before shooting ahead to cut the hawk off its course. Hawk elicited another low keen, which became perfectly clear to me: Not cool, Crow. Watch yourself, son, he seemed to say.
The crow had swagger or stupidity or, most likely, both. Crow is going to learn something the hard way, I thought, and will have a souvenir clipped wing to prove it. Hawk continued in his steady, old soul pace, covering the same narrow track of sky. Undeterred, crow made another pass at the bird. This time he aimed himself at the front and just to the right of the hawk’s wing, narrowly glancing what would be the regal bird’s shoulder type area, if birds had those. I sucked in my breath. Oh no he did not. I could hear the honeyed tone of a British actor doing a voice-over for this nature film: The crow continues to antagonize the hawk in what only can be described as a foolish maneuver, indeed. The two birds might have to settle things like gentlemen.
Another bleat. Hawk made a wider sweep and maybe that slight adjust in trajectory was just enough to let crow know that he was not dealing with a chump like seagull or pigeon. Suddenly it seemed that crow definitely thought better of menacing this adversary. Letting out a shrill squawk, crow took off in the direction of the massive pine trees ringing the lake’s shoreline. Hawk forged along in his measured way, dipping lower to the water and cutting up into the sky in the opposite direction. I followed him as he grew to be a smudge of black ink against the white clouds on the horizon.
Hawk or crow. Focused, steady, present. Wise in not falling into the trap of giving fools or foolishness your precious energy. Secure in the truth you carry about who you are and what you are here for. Unconcerned with whatever does not serve you totally.
Attention-seeking, erratic, insecure. Winging through the world with a grossly inflated sense of yourself. Seeking without direction. Taking action without purpose. Following without an openness to be the follower, without the humility it takes to be the student.
Hawk or crow.
The “right” answer is obvious, but the truth is always more complicated. Most of us, most days are both, only able to see ourselves clearly at a great distance.