In Ottawa on December 7, after helping out with some union work, I slowly and solemnly made my way to North River Road park to put some tobacco down beside a white birch tree. I did so to shed some heaviness I was carrying in my heart. Soon thereafter, I stopped at a nearby Loblaws store to pick up the newspaper before heading back to Kitigan Zibi. After rolling to a stop on the west side of the Loblaws parking lot, I immediately became aware of the presence of many pigeons (approximately 50) in a holly berry tree only a few short feet from where I was parked. I emerged from my Jeep and marvelled at how the small tree seemed to be pulsing with life, an illusion brought forth by the gentle nibbling of the birds feasting on the berries.
Suddenly, without warning, the pigeons rushed towards me. It was obvious to me that they were in a state of great panic. Their beating wings drummed furiously sending tiny feathers tumbling to the ground. Most of the out-of-control pigeons were only inches from the top of my head. And because of it, the energy they produced spiritually engulfed me, sending an electric-like current throughout my being. The sensation was so great, it seemed to me that I was going to topple over onto my back. Though the wind was taken out of me, I was able to see that a flash of swirling brown was moving in the midst of a blue, grey and mauve wave, created by the swiftly moving pigeons.
My eyes were locked on the brown streak until it crashed onto the pavement less than 10 feet from where I was standing. I could see then that it was a fine hawk which had brought a pigeon down and was now squeezing the last seconds of life out of the helpless smaller bird with its mighty talons. The hawk turned to look at me. “Are you going to interfere with my right to feast?” he seemed to inquire. “No not me,” I said out loud. “Bon appetit!”
The hawk began to pluck one down feather after the other from the pigeon’s breast. Every 2 or 3 seconds he stopped, to look at me to confirm that I wasn’t moving closer to his feasting table or doing something else threatening to him in any way. A crow, however, descended from the sky and swooped twice over the hawk’s head, no doubt letting all things know that he was claiming the leftovers. But the magnificent hawk totally ignored him. I stood sentry on behalf of the hawk to ward off, if I had to, any vehicle entering the lot that might not see him and run him down. Eventually, the hawk, having assured himself that his well-earned, ready-to-eat meal had no life left in it, flew off with his prey to go and consume it at, perhaps, a more romantic setting. The crow followed along. “A match made in heaven,” I thought.
There is something of enormous spiritual significance to this story that might be of interest to you. I shall share it now!
The hawk who dove from a sunny sky to claim the life of an unsuspecting pigeon was the same species of raptor which I found lying dead just before a ceremony began at Victoria Island over a year ago. The body of the bird was warm, rigour was far from setting in. It was assumed by the people who had come to participate in the ceremony that the hawk had been caught in the winds of one of the tornadoes which destroyed many dwellings along the Ottawa River a couple of days previous to our gathering. We guessed that the bird of prey had been severely injured by the storm and somehow ended up on the island where it passed away a few short feet from where the ceremonial circle would take place.
The people participating in the ceremony thought it was fitting to invite the spirit of the great bird to take its place in our circle. We did so and the ceremony went well, as we had hoped. We pulled feathers from the bird and all who wanted one took it into their care, so it could become part of the bundle held sacred to them. I have one of the feathers here in my home. Tobacco was offered, a grave was dug and the hawk was laid to rest in a good way.
I do not think it’s outrageous to believe that the raptor who claimed his feast in the parking lot near where I stood is the same bird whose spirit was called into the circle by human beings over a year ago. He returned to say, “I’m here, I have fared well. I survived and I have come to feast the strength you place into your heart to survive grief and heartache!” What I experienced was not a coincidence. It’s just how spirit works!
Very spiritual growth in this message for people ready to allow energy to flower. I am interested to include this narrative in my project working in progress internsip at saw gallery for my soundscapes movement and masks dance virtual reality experiemental film.of course with Elders permission. Funny at this time a small bird entered my daughter’s house where I was staying at the time. I t was a small grey blue tint tropical looking chickadee coming in from the storm. I went to got a nest a cage food when I return he had already perished from storm..before that he landed on our hands and head.blessing us with a warm presense.
Chi-Miigwetch for this story Albert. I like your feather. I hope you are very well.
I have been thinking a lot about your story you have told when you were a child and you encountered that man in the store who liked to touch all the bread loafs. I still wonder what was the teaching that you meant to convey … .
Migwech for your comment.
The old man of the memory (bread loaves) you refer to was left unable to speak because of a disfigurement he experienced shortly after childbirth. The point I was making was the fact that a prayer does not need to be spoken in any language. A prayer begins and ends in your heart. It leaves the physical domain and enters the spiritual. The old man could not speak but this did not deny him the ability to pray.
miigwetch old man. <3
Albert, it was a pleasure to read about your experiences with a hawk. Miigwech for all you do to help us recognize our relations. A couple of months ago, I spent 3 weeks on an island in Lake Temagami. On my almost last day there, I woke one morning and went to the shore of the lake. My poem is about the south wind, and when I got home and put it in my computer, I knew those words needed to be in the title. The title made me think of you, of course. Here is my poem.
South wind in September
Did my ancestors look into
this clear water, loving the
white quartz rocks as much as
their mossy brown sisters?
Were these rocks, to them, not the same
and not different?
Did the women of the nation
or just one imaginary woman,
conjured by me after all, for company,
as I sit on a smooth rock on the edge
of a small island growing out of deep lake
also watch eagles soar?
On this warm morning in September
everything seems possible. Especially soaring.
Parades of pine needles float by
and two toothy birch leaves, belly up and golden,
sail along, brought from a higher perch
overnight by a strong south wind.
I want to ask the ancestors what it means to write
about beauty and water and wind and even
slippery time, without losing this moment?
What are beauty or sadness before humans name them?
Named or not, I feel ripples from the south wind
on my face. I am dancing with black insects
skating among tall reeds in the shallows.
Sun is climbing.
Wind is telling me everything is
not the same and not different.
Breath tells me I am nothing but the south wind.
What a beautiful poem! Thank you so much for sharing. I have been to Temagami many times (Bear Island) and I too find the lake, the islands, the rocks and the pines to be spiritual wonders. You are very fortunate indeed.
All the best,
It’s amazing to me that you would tell this story today.
I live 3 blocks from that Loblaws, & I went out to the grassy area under the trees beside my building to feed the squirrels this morning. Suddenly there was a flurry of pigeons & squirrels–everyone moving & scattering at once. I thought they’d been scared by a noise, but when the swirl of feathers & tails cleared, there on the ground 20 feet away stood a massive hawk, perched on the pigeon s/he’d just caught. S/he was so beautiful!
The whole event was so sudden, so unexpected, especially the finale with this massive bird of prey crouched on the ground so close to me. My heart went out to the pigeon, but also to the beautiful hawk who was working so hard to survive another day. I watched her for a long time, because it felt like such a gift to see her.
Thankyou so much for sharing your story!
Thank you too, Sandra, for sharing yours. Sounds like the hawk loves to shop at Loblaws. Smart bird!
Haha, yes! Maybe the hawk will become a permanent resident here. His/her tenacity to not just survive but thrive in this urban environment is inspiring. Thankyou again for sharing your encounter.
Thank you Albert / South Wind / my friend and brother;
What a beautiful story. I loved the energy surging through you and your easy connection with the hawk. I so love animals and love their messages and stories they share with us … drin gwiinzii, Alexis.