Soaring Heart

I suppose one of the great observations I make from day to day is the soaring hawk, a Red-tailed (Buteo jamaicensis).

The hawk is above the debris, the remains of daily chores.  Yes, I know that he or she must come down to earth, but as I watch the hawk, I think it plays and flies for the sheer fun of it, the pleasure of flight.  Who can say?  I personify the hawk more than I should, yet, it gives me pleasure to reach out and extrapolate the behavior in familiar terms, a kinship formed.

Two Red-tails inhabit the grove on our place, a riparian swatch that I am keen on developing.  Harris’ hawks also migrate through this area, soaring closer to the ground and smaller in physique.  I hear their voices: karr from the Harris and keeer-r-r from Red-tail.  Cris-crossing, floating, the swiftness with which they predate holds my attention.  It is said that the hawk will dance on its kill.  I have not seen that and do not look for that vintage behavior, but rather I am open to what the hawk displays.  And, in the fields and grove, soaring becomes the rule for display.

To the field we should go daily.  To the field and look and listen, especially to the sky when Red-tails fly.

It is no wonder that Lame Deer, the seeker of visions, would say, when happy: My heart soars like a hawk.

Thou art that: the hawk, the soaring heart.



For voice and bird identification, Roger Tory Peterson, A Field Guide to Western Birds, 2nd ed., Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1969.  I have kept a life list of birds I have seen.  I’ve become interested lately in the voices and calls of birds.  The voice translation of the hawks come from Peterson.

One of the excellent sources of Native American life and biography is John (Fire) Lame Deer, Lame Deer Seeker of Visions: The Life of a Sioux Medicine Man, with Richard Erdoes, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1972.  My paperback copy of Lame Deer is old and full of markings.

“Thou art that,” is an ancient Asiatic perceptual insight in meditation.  What you see (and other senses), you are.  Basically, it is an insight that breaks down boundaries among objects and creates a unity.  It is a Vedic formula for enlightenment.  One source is the Chandogya Upanishad.  I teach world civilization and some of the most interesting classes among undergraduates is trying to understand the Orient.

Banner photograph taken by J. Matthews.  It is an enlargement of the Red-tail hawk in the first thumbnail.  Nikon D300 with telescopic lens is the camera.


Filed under Birds, Life in Balance

9 responses to “Soaring Heart

  1. Your ability and your choice to be on a piece of land and take care of it, Jack, is honorable by me. What you are sharing here is big insight gained from that land knowledge. I so appreciate hearing all the connections you bring together as well as your respectful stance- “It is said that the hawk will dance on its kill. I have not seen that and do not look for that vintage behavior, but rather I am open to what the hawk displays.” I will come back and read this post again.

  2. I want to clarify what I mean by “ability to be on a piece of land” in my comment above. Better way to say it -you have a capacity to appreciate all that it takes to being a steward of land – all the tedium and energy and foresight.

    Lately I heard a wild horse advocate make a statement I really wonder she believes. Out of what seems frustration with the occupation, she said … ranching is the easiest way to make a living off the land, just put a few head of grazers out there – you don’t have to do all the work a farmer does to prepare the land … paraphrasing her. This comment grated on me based on the small amount I have learned about ranching through writers such as Linda Hasselstrom. In my mind it is not easiest way. You have to deal with huge numbers of big mammals and all their needs, travel long distances, keep track of a whole lot of different places. Ever since I heard that last week I have been wanting to ask folks if that mentality is a common one.

    • Cirrelda, Let me get back to you fully, but I can say this, ranching is as tedious and labor-intensive (a different way, of course) as farming. Different labor applications to be sure, but the “easiest way” to make a living off the land? I think not. A lot more to follow. I’ll look at Linda Hasselstrom as much as I can our here on the ranch. I’ll provide mentality, writ large.

  3. Jack, There are so many nice things about this post. “Vintage behavior,” is an excellent term for the ways that are past. Now we must be open to seeing the new, in both animal and human forms.

    “To the field we should go daily,” is a great phrase, and idea. And a new practice of mine.

    Breaking down boundaries and creating unity…what we all should aspire to.
    “Thou art That.” Teresa

    • Teresa, That’s a beautiful, powerful photo of you I put in the blog! Tell me more about it.

      • Utah, late ’90’s. I spent every spring of that decade hiking in the canyons around Bluff and Cedar Mesa, in the SE corner of the state. I had fallen for all things Anasazi. Photographed the ruins, petroglyphs and pictographs, developed an eye for habitation sites and had the time of my life. Life-affirming experiences. I hope I’m not done yet, but life moves on and now this new way of being takes precedence.

    • Teresa, Thanks for your description of the photo I posted of you. That’s a excellent shot. I would frame it and put it with my personal photo treasures. Or, submit it for a book of “Women of the West.” Nice.

  4. Jack, some of Linda’s books are : Going Over East, Windbreak, Land Circle (won Mtns Plns bk award ’92), and she’s edited Women Writing the West collections among others. I interviewed her for the Farm Connection back in 93. She’s who got me all turned around about beef – back to seeing it as a good, necessary herbivore if managed well with land in mind.

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