He was a holy man and out of reference, I bowed my head and closed my eyes, in a state of prayer. I struggled to focus my thoughts. But there was a moment when I lost myself in the notes of the song. What happened next has changed me from who I was to who I am becoming…
I have always admired the raptors of the air. As a young girl, I spent hours reading the stories of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. The tales of their bravery and code of honor stirred the beginnings of integrity deep within my own soul. Peregrine falcons were used for hunting and held the noble rankings of their masters. It was here that I first fell in love with the birds of prey.
This past summer, while doing research in Walla Walla, I had the most unusual encounter with a goshawk. Walking the grounds of the Whitman Mission the hawk appeared to be following me. No matter where I walked, the bird followed, sometimes landing on a fence post and other times in a tree above my head. Each time I moved to retrace the steps of massacre, the bird flew to a place within a short distance. Back inside the museum, I questioned the Park Ranger about the hawk. He told me he’d never seen the hawk before today and that he had watched the unique encounter.
Near the Whitman Massacre site is a Native American Reservation and museum. I went in to listen to the elders of the tribes describe the difficulties of tribal life today. A well-spoken man in his forties, respected in his council, began to speak of his faith. Upon completing his testimony, he played a lute in the traditional ways of his ancestors.
Clearly, in my mind’s eye, I saw a large white hawk fettered to the lower limb of a tree by leather thongs. Each time this powerful bird attempted to fly towards the sky, the leather straps held it fast against the branch. The continued efforts of the mighty bird never thwarted its attempts to be set free. At last, with a mighty stroke of its wings, it cast off the fetters hindering its flight and soared heaven-ward. As the sound of the lute finished the song, the hawk dissolved into a wispy white cloud blending into the heavens. Although it wasn’t a psychic event, it did make me stop and notice.
I opened my eyes to a room full of people attentively listening to the rest of the lecture. I sat there convinced that I had been given a message for my life. I had been through a particularly rough year and yet the message was clearly this,
“Cast off all that encumbers your flight
and soar to the heights you are intended to.”
I spent the next months re-evaluating my own talents and the direction of my life. I systematically appraised the activities I spend my time on. I set goals for my life, short and long range and bravely got rid of everything that keeps me from these achievements as if I were the hawk destroying the leather fetters holding me flightless. Getting rid of everything that might keep me from soaring has proven both tedious and rewarding. It takes dedicated effort to go through everything in my life and a willingness to see the good, the bad, and the ugly of myself. Once I created my personal “mission statement” it served as a measuring stick for every choice I make. I looked at my work, my skills, my finances, my spending, my stewardship of time, relationships and personal growth and asked myself these questions:
- Will this matter ten years from now?
- Does this move me forward or backward to my goals?
- Am I building eternal wealth or immediate success?
- Is this a fetter or a feather?
This year I will continue to pay attention to the hawk’s scream. It will remind me to put on more flight soaring feathers and to destroy the fetters of life that keep me from soaring to my intended potential.