I started bird watching in 1981. I remember my excitement when I learned that not all the large birds that soar in the sky are turkey vultures. I had discovered hawks. I was fascinated with them. When they flew, I soared with them. I don’t know why or when they became for me signs of the presence of God, but they still are.
Today, Sunday, February 24, 2008, the third Sunday in Lent, I agreed to begin my own blog, linked to the web site of the church I serve, Grace Church in Norwalk, Connecticut. Even though my blog would be linked to my church, however, it didn’t have to be about God or church or religion or theology. I was free to soar, to write anything I wanted to.
I was in the kitchen, making a cup of tea – for me a nice, leisurely ritual. Fill the mug with boiling water. Pour off all the remaining water in the kettle. Refill the kettle with fresh water and bring to a boil while the mug is warming up. As I went through the ritual I was thinking what my first blog post would be. There were so many possibilities. Where to begin.
Just before the tea water came to a boil, I turned the kettle off, took the mug to the sink and poured out the water the only purpose for which had been to warm the mug. I turned from the sink and looked out the kitchen window.
I stopped dead. Thirty feet away, standing on the snow covered ground, pulling the feathers off a freshly killed sparrow, was an immature red shouldered hawk. Thirty feet away. Even now I marvel that it is the closeness of that hawk, and not the plight of the sparrow, that fills me with awe. As gruesome as it was, I watched that bird, glorying in its beauty for at least fifteen minutes as it ate its prey and I brewed and drank my tea. I wondered if anything would be left of the sparrow.
Finally, the hawk finished eating and flew to the low branches of a nearby tree. An hour later, it was gone. All that’s left on the snow now is feathers and blood. And the memory of something powerful and real, and, yes, beautiful.