Sunday, July 26, 2015

Hawk Medicine

Three days this week I have gone to Eastern State Hospital to walk the labyrinth.  Three days this week I have encountered hawks.  On Monday a hawk flew overhead while I was in the middle of my walk.  After I was done I saw the hawk again flying up to land in a pine tree across the road from the labyrinth.  I crossed over for a closer view and took the picture to the left.  When I tried to get closer for a better picture, the hawk took off with a piercing cry and soared high into a more distant tree.  I could imagine how the hawk's prey would be paralyzed by the cry.  It is so eerie and haunting to hear in the relative quiet of the early morning.  I said good-bye and went on my way, grateful for the encounter.  

On Thursday morning I went out again.  This time as I got onto the Eastern State Campus, I recognized sound of the hawk's shrill cry and smiled.  Hello, I said to her in my head.  Come and visit me.  Although I have no idea how to tell the gender of hawks, I have decided mine is female.  I heard her a few times, but I did not see her.  When I was close to finishing my labyrinth walk, I heard her again, and I froze, looking for her.  The first time I didn't see her, but when I heard her cry again, I saw her glide in to perch on another nearby pine.  After my walk I went over to pay my respects.  A cardinal sat in a nearby tree cheeping out a warning that the hawk was near.  I tried again to get a picture, but the hawk really doesn't like the camera.  As I edged closer, she descended to the ground, where she appeared to be searching for a morning snack in the grass.  I took a picture from a distance before she flew up into another tree.  This time it was almost like she was playing hide and seek in the leaves.  As I approached, I could hardly make her out behind the thick clumps of leaves that camouflaged her.  Clearly, whatever message she is bringing me, she does not intend to allow me to get too close.  When I shifted my position to try to see her better, with a scream she flew much farther away to land on top of one of the Eastern State buildings.  I bid her adieu and went on my way, though I kept looking over at her silhouetted against the sky.

I couldn't help but wonder if I'm starting to form a relationship with this bird.  Of course I have no way of knowing whether it's even the same bird as the first time.  But I did have the hope of seeing her again when I set out that morning, and she had appeared.  Now maybe it's just because I have been going for my walks much earlier in the morning.  Or maybe it's simply an active time for hawks.  I have seen them before at Eastern State, but not for a very long time. 

This morning I decided to go to the Church of the Holy Labyrinth as it is my last Sunday off for awhile.  I wondered if I would see my hawk again.  Funny how a wild bird becomes mine so quickly.  She is not a tame bird, Lauren.  This time as I started down the hill of the road that leads onto Eastern State, I began looking for her and straining to hear.  Lots of birds were calling out, and a couple of times I thought I might have heard her, but I knew it wasn't piercing enough to be the cry of a hawk.  As I turned the corner to head up the hill to the labyrinth, I noticed something in the road at the top.  A hawk.  Sitting in the middle of the road.  I stopped.  Frozen as I stared at her. 

Native Americans pay attention to the medicine that animals bring when they cross your path.  Hawks are known for being far-sighted, for seeing the big picture, for vision and wisdom, and for being messengers.  The hawk this morning looked as she was waiting for me on the road.  When I began walking again, she flew quickly to the top of a stop sign and then up into a tree.  I lost sight of her and then caught a quick glimpse of her before she flew off out of sight.  While I was trying to connect with the hawk from the road, I could hear another hawk screaming out her cries at regular intervals from further along my path.  I found her in one of the pine trees near the labyrinth and was able to get a blurry picture.  I think I really need to stop taking pictures, but it's just instinctual to want to share the sighting.  She flew away  fairly quickly, piercing the early morning with her cry as she flew.

I went on to walk the labyrinth, spending time with God and listening to the quieter sounds of other birds.  When I was done walking, however, and had decided to move on, I heard the hawk again and saw her flying from tree to tree nearby.  I decided to extend my walk and exited Eastern State from the opposite direction of where I had entered, and I heard another hawk crying out.  Hunting time, I guess.

I'm not sure yet what message or medicine the hawks are bringing me, but I am grateful for their presence.  I consider it a blessing.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Jupiter, Bringer of Jollity

I fell in love with Jupiter at Interlochen.  Not the planet but the music.  In elementary school I loved learning about the planets in our solar system.  In college I became fascinated with a very bright "star" in the winter sky that I didn't remember seeing before.  Friends who were taking astronomy told me it was Jupiter.  When I took astronomy myself I got to see some of the planets through the telescope - it was unreal to see Saturn's rings and Jupiter's moons.  So I have had a fascination with Jupiter for a long time, but it wasn't until my first year out of college that a friend introduced me to Gustav Holst's The Planets, an orchestral suite in which each of the movements is named after a planet.  Even then, I didn't fall in love with Jupiter until I started working at Interlochen Center for the Arts in the summer of 1992.

Interlochen is best known for music, though I was there working in the theatre department.  Located on a lake in Michigan, not far from Traverse City, Interlochen is the home of the World Youth Symphony Orchestra and a camp for the arts where hundreds of young people come each summer to immerse themselves in the study and practice of music, dance, visual arts, and drama.  Scattered throughout the trees of the Interlochen campus are tiny wooden cabins used for music practice.  As you walk around camp, you hear the sounds of tuning and scales:  flutes, oboes, and violins, trumpets, guitars, and clarinets.  Bathrooms are just about the only rooms that don't contain a piano.  Staff housing is in a dorm with practice rooms in the basement.  My first year I got to listen to tuba practice quite often.  Tubas are really more interesting when surrounded by the rest of the orchestra.  Each morning we woke to Reveille being played to wake the campers and each evening we heard Taps as the camp quietened down for sleep.

 I was the stage manager for the ten-day play which rehearsed and performed in Grunow, a small theatre that overlooked the lake.  Each morning, dressed in my required uniform of light blue shirt and navy blue shorts or corduroy knickers, I walked past the Bowl, a giant outdoor auditorium where some of the orchestras rehearsed, on my way to rehearsal.  On those cool northern mornings with low humidity and blue true dreams of skies, breezes dancing off the lake and through the leaves of the hardwood trees, I fell in love with Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity.  Each summer I was there one of the orchestras practiced it in the early morning hours in the Bowl.  Big brass fanfares and the hymn in the middle and the rousing finale.  It is such a cheerful, happy, uplifting piece of music.  It never fails to bring a smile to my face and joy to my heart.  My first year I actually stumbled upon the performance of the piece in one of the main concert halls and was thrilled at the serendipity of witnessing the concert version of the piece I had grown to love. 

Recently I attended a service at St. John's Episcopal Church in Hampton.  As the organist began the prelude, I was instantly transformed back to Interlochen.  It took me a moment, at first I thought it might be the Widor Toccata, another favorite piece that I had heard during my summers there.  But no, this was too gentle, couldn't be the Toccata.  In an instant I knew.  It was the hymn section of Jupiter.  Memories rushed back to me of summers by the lake, canoe trips with the staff, long conversations around fires at the bluff where the faculty lived in small cabins, rehearsals with brilliant young actors, and always, always the music.  Memories with a soundtrack.  Each Sunday night the World Youth Symphony Orchestra performed in Kresge Auditorium, a covered but open air venue with glass windows behind the stage that overlooked the lake so you could watch the rippling of the water as the orchestra played.  Hearing that Jupiter hymn was like being wrapped in a soft blanket of some of my favorite memories.  A hug from God.

If you aren't familiar with it, treat yourself to The Planets by Gustav Holst.  And when you listen to Jupiter, think of me, and smile with joy.