Contextually, I’ve been going through a lot lately. A whole lot. I feel like this has become of a catch phrase of mine, but this time of the year is always rough for me – for a lot of reasons that I won’t delve into. I’m acutely aware of how my emotions are tied to the lunar cycle, and leading up to July’s full moon, known as the Buck Moon, I have been brimming with emotional energy. Think of those surface tension experiments from high-school biology class. When there’s enough water to sit on top of a penny, or to rise just slightly above the rim of the cup, before it’s too much, and it spills over: That’s been me. Now that I think of it, that’s basically me, all the time.
A little over two weeks ago, I was walking my dogs when I heard what I initially took as a gull flying overhead. It was a similar high pitched, squawking, but higher and shrill, and somehow very mournful sounding.
I looked and saw her: an adult female red-tailed hawk, atop a utility pole on the corner of south west corner Whenona and Mohawk, 50 yards away from my apartment. Smaller birds, I think red-winged black birds, darted in and took pot shots at her back, trying to chase her off. She didn’t budge, just sat there, calling out.
It was just before the July 4th weekend, and I do every year, I left town to try and avoid the fireworks. They’re triggering to my PTSD in the literal sense where my central nervous system believes someone is launching rockets and or mortars at me (again) and I physically respond in every sense as though I’m reliving being attacked. Mentally I know I’m not. But I can only convince myself of that for a the first one or two. After that my mind detaches from the moment and everything goes a little like that twilight sedation and I’m no longer in control. Someone else is. And all they care about is protecting me. And they are very, very violent.
So, I ran to the woods to avoid that person. To hide from that person. But even in the depths of the Chequamegon-N. National Forest I found white conservatives who brought their fireworks in to celebrate freedom with violence. Freedom. Of course the UTV crowd was celebrating their freedom. Roe had just been overturned. And so that night in my tent, having hiked 17 miles at 2.5 mph over some of the most rugged terrain on the Ice Age with a four-day supply of food, both knees swollen and one knee that had started giving out, I listened to the pigs celebrate being free from tyrannical rule – a rule of the religious minority, dogmatic and oppressive.
In a fit of anxiety and nervousness, I took what was supposed to be a three-day trip and was home in under 36 hours; I had hiked over 35 miles in just over 25 hours in a forced march, half of it with a 30 lb. load. Limping back into my apartment, wincing with every movement, I heard the hawk somewhere in my neighborhood, still crying out.
The next two days my neighbors shot off large fireworks, the kind that sound like mortars, even after I asked them not to, and told them why, and what happens to me.
The hawk continued. She started around sun up – I know because I’m up nearly every day before it’s light. And she didn’t stop until shortly before sundown, for nearly a week. Her location would occasionally vary by a few dozen yards, but she never left ear-shot. And for what it’s worth, I left most of my hearing in the military. That I could hear her in my apartment meant she was within a few hundred feet at all times.
My parents came up the following weekend, and we discussed the conclusion we’d all come to: her mate had vanished. They based their belief on having witnessed the Decora Eagle make similar calls when her mate vanished after a particularly harsh storm. I based my belief on intuition – not just a sense or a feeling, but a knowing. My dad, who also gave the military most of his hearing, couldn’t hear her inside. But I could. And so could my mother. And she and I listened, while the three of us sipped our coffee, and felt sad for the hawk and hurt.
Three days later, sometime in the afternoon. I heard my hawk again. I looked up, and she was circling overhead. Her belly and underwings almost beaming white against one of the most beautify cloudless blue skies I’d ever seen. Abject misery cast against unquestionable beauty. Such is life.
Her call sounded raw, and ragged. Like her throat was bleeding from crying out her lover’s name for two straight weeks, like she had been trying to be heard over the noise of the battle field. She sounded tired, and desperate. She sounded defeated. That night and the next morning I heard her perched nearby, still calling, though faintly, and weakly.
For a second day she circled above. Higher, and circling farther and farther out. All the while I suffered through the last few days of a job that was so emotionally damaging that my best option for self-care was to walk away from it. I am nearly hysterical with fear, as I have no job lined up, and as of this writing, am not actually certain that I will be ok. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to think that I will be.
Wednesday, July 13th. My hawk flew away. It was the full moon. The Buck Moon. The last full moon before my birthday. I updated my parents this morning: “My hawk finally flew away.” And I sat and sipped my coffee and looked out at the rain and I hurt, and I cried. I cried for my hawk and I cried for my mom and dad. I cried for all the hurt in all of us and I cried for the part of me whose name is Hurt.
He is very young. And he hides underneath a sheet, dressed like a ghost. Because his small body is hideously deformed. He has no skin and all of his organs are exposed to the outside world. He is monstrously ugly, with no eyes, and no lips, no ears, and he cannot speak. He can only wail and moan and the noises he makes would give a demon nightmares. So, he remains silent.
He wants to be seen. He wants to be held. But he is so undeniably hideous, that no one, not even those who are well intended, would ever think to touch him. Let alone embrace him. He is that ugly, scary and powerful.
I don’t know that the two are connected, my Buck Moon Hawk and Hurt. But they both emerged at similar times and so I can’t help but believe they somehow have to be. I don’t know that my hawk was here to tell me anything about love in a mono-normative way, and I’m aware of the hetero-binary tones to this tale. There’s an irony there that’s best left for another rainy morning, but I felt it was worth mentioning that I don’t take the hawk’s presence in my life to represent anything relating to or referencing the typical male-female monogamous relationship model.
I’ve taken to believe that the hawk, for whatever reason, just happened to be hurting in the same place at the same time that I was, and perhaps in a similar way. If, hurting was what she was doing. Who knows, perhaps it was all projection. Perhaps the hawk wasn’t missing anyone, or anything.
I want to believe there’s a lesson in letting go in all of this. That there’s a message of healing. I want to believe that the hawk, by somehow being present, and then finally moving on, is some kind of a sign that somehow things will get better. That someday I’ll get better.
Most days I can’t believe that I ever will. No matter how much I try. Most days I am broken beyond fixing and I know to my mortal depths that I will always return to my fits on the floor, heaving, sobbing, retching in pain and grief. That my normal will always be agonizingly painful for reasons that I cannot explain, uncover or heal. But there are days where I can almost flip the script.
These days, that aching chasm of darkness and the energy that pulls things into it is at an all-time high. It seems the further down the road to recovery I get the bigger the void becomes, and the stronger it’s gravitational pull becomes. But a thing I’ve noticed, a thing that almost feels like hope, a thing that I think maybe might get me through these next few miles is that as the void and pull increases, so does my desire to resist it.