I don’t usually follow Fate when she wanders off the path in the woods. I just keep walking, knowing she’ll catch up with me.
But this afternoon, she followed the trail of something down to the swamp. And when she stood looking at it then at me, like she does with the door when she wants to go out, and I felt she wanted to show me something.
And there, on the edge of the melting ice, was a cluster of Red Tail Hawk feathers.
I looked around for more evidence of the hawk they came from, but only found some downy feathers a foot or so away.
The feathers reminded me of when I was working in an art museum on Long Island, in the early 1990s. We were installing an exhibit called Migrations of Meaning that had several Native American Artists in it.
One of the artists noticed the three hawk feathers I had hanging in the office I shared with a co-worker.
I was nervous when he asked me where I got them because at the time (I’m not sure if this is still true) it was illegal to own hawk feathers. I told him how I volunteered at a wildlife center on the weekends and fed and cleaned the cages of the Hawks and Owls who were injured and lived there. That’s where I got the feathers.
He said that because I took care of the hawks I had a right to have the feathers. Then he tied the three feathers together and blessed them.
I kept the feathers for years, then one day, when we still lived at Old Bedlam Farm, I untied the feathers and scattered them in the woods. It just felt like the right thing to do.
When I saw the Red Tail Hawk feathers in the woods today, I thought of taking them.
But instead, I lined them up next to each other on the leaves covering the ground. It was overcast out and dark under the trees, so it was only after I took the picture of the feathers and looked at it on my iPhone that I saw the tiny evergreen tree sprouting up between them.
This seemed so hopeful to me, I felt like I had unknowingly been a part of something meaningful.
Once home I looked up the meaning of Hawk feathers and found they “symbolize[s] guardianship, strength and far-sightedness.” But I honestly don’t know what meaning this has in my life at this moment.
What I’m thinking is that this whole experience isn’t about me. That, this afternoon, I was just a small part of something so much bigger than myself.