As I stand in the tree today I hear a small flutter. A chickadee has broken through the mantle of foliage and is perched on a twig. For a little while it hops about from branch to branch and pecks at twigs and leaves. It is a rare visitor; I don’t often have birds join me in the tree. I think about the kind of relationship we have with creatures like this, and the kinds of meanings they can carry for us. Yesterday I was out in the woods on the cross-town trail doing some trail maintenance–clearing falling branches, replacing trail markers, pruning encroaching overgrowth. At one point I was walking along a straight, level section of the trail through open woods on high ground, when ear or eye caught something and I turned to see, off to my left, a large dark shape alight from a tree and glide further along through the woods–a goshawk, almost certainly. Huge, silent, winged. At the same moment, the hawk still in flight, a deer reared up out of a rocky ravine a dozen yards off to my right and bounded alongside the trail before it veered off and disappeared among the trees.
For an extraordinary few moments all three of us–the goshawk to my left and the deer to my right–were traveling together, parallel to one another, moving forward through the trees. Gliding, walking, running,side by side. And then they were both gone and I was alone.
It was a rare moment, and a beautiful one. It felt imbued with power and meaning, though I could not say what it was exactly, and had to acknowledge that I was probably just stretching a skin of meaning over the wooden frame of coincidence–how many times have I been in the woods and seen a hawk, or a deer? How long before, inevitably, I would see them at the same time?–but still I had made a drum. And still the drum did sound. And is this not how we live much of our lives?
I watch the chickadee a little longer, and then there is a flutter and it too is gone and I am alone in the tree.