The most prevalent form of religious/spiritual practice in my household growing up was that of Native American people. My mom used to smudge me before school; she was named by an elder on the reservation where she spent much time learning while volunteering her time and efforts; whenever I took a rock or a flower from the ground, I was encouraged to leave an offering of thanks in the form of a strand of hair or sometimes tobacco for something more substantial. When I was 16, we took a road trip and visited the Medicine Wheel and Wounded Knee. Though I shrugged off many of the practices as an adolescent, though the underlying principles were instilled in me. As I get older, I begin to understand the significance and necessity of ritual.
Last Friday I was driving on The By Way and for the second time in a week, a red tailed hawk flew low over my car, showing me it's spotted underbelly. This time it was carrying half of a squirrel and actually landed on the ground. I pulled my car over to take a picture, as never in my life have I seen a hawk standing on the ground. It just stood there observing, unfazed by the cars driving by. I walked across the street taking pictures as I got closer. I stopped at about 6 feet from the revered bird for fear that he may think I was trying to steal his food and decide to claw my eyes out. I feel I could've gotten closer, as he was unwavering in my presence.
I stood there awestruck for about two full minutes waiting for him to get spooked and fly away. He did not. It was only after I went back across the street and got into my car that he flew up into a tree, leaving the partial squirrel on the ground. In the tradition of Native American medicine, I believe that when an animal presents itself to me, there is a message in that and it is up to me to pay attention to it. Of course the first place I turned was the internet to learn more about what the medicine of a red tailed hawk represents.* There was quite a bit that resonated with the direction and lessons that I am working on in life right now, but none summed it up better than this:
"Many of the messages Hawk may bring are about freeing yourself of thoughts and beliefs that are limiting your ability to soar above your life and gain a greater perspective. If one remains earthbound, then the possibilities of life are limited! It is this ability to soar high above to catch a glimpse of the bigger picture that is one of the aspects of Hawk medicine that makes it so valuable: If one is undergoing a difficult passage to know that just over the next hill is freedom and liberation if one keeps going can be a Godsend in supporting the person to keep moving forward! Likewise, if the path is not appropriate, Hawk Medicine can alert one to this and point out a far more favorable path." -found here
That night I asked for a dream and I received one. In this dream I was lifted up off the ground by a helicopter. I was not in the helicopter, but dangling from it by the firm grip of my legs and holding myself up with one arm while in my other was a fire extinguisher. As the 'copter lifted me up, I was not filled with fear, but rather with a joyful exhilaration. If there was any fear, it was similar to that anxious excitement before riding a roller coaster or (I imagine) skydiving. As I rose from the bleak, industrial surroundings, I saw the slate blue ocean brilliantly reflecting the bright sun. I was so close to it, but too far to see it from the ground.
As we flew towards the ocean, I was asked to put out these fires which arose from two smokestacks. I was working on it when they announced that we were going to have to get closer to the fires in order to put them out, to which I replied "okay, but just don't catch my hair on fire". I got about 90% of the fire put out before my fire extinguisher was empty. As we hovered, some blind presence handed me a pint of heavy cream (I know, it's a dream) which I poured on the smoking embers to completely extinguish the flames.
There are so many ways to analyze this that make sense to me, which is odd because usually my dream analysis is pretty straight forward when my subconscious wants to announce something. Perhaps something great is just beyond my field of vision. When I am 'on the ground' focused on leftover squirrel instead of up above seeking something more fulfilling, I can't see the big picture. If I can expand my view to see beyond my perceived limitations, I will find that something beautiful is 'just over the next hill' and completely within my reach if I can envision it and keep moving towards it. Maybe it's time to put out the fires and move on...
* interesting tidbit: their tail only turns that rusty red well into maturity as though the animal must earn those feathers.
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