When last I took the time to write something for this blog, I spoke of the resolution I had made to be hopeful and trust in God, even if things look hopeless and trust is hard. This is, in retrospect, the sort of difficult, foolish resolution that one should only make with the full realisation that God takes you at your word when you do so. I was aware of what I was doing when I made that resolution, but I did not really expect God to test it quite so thoroughly as He has these last couple months. I have no intention of complaining about the hand He is dealing out through His wisdom. Nor, for that matter, to imply that the difficult situations in which I have so unwantedly found myself do not have the faint, curling new-growth of Something Good Coming about them - they do. There is - improbably - Hope in the midst of a decided Vale of Tears; Hope that shines like a single, bright prick of starlight - a solitary guide in the unfriendly darkness. What I do mean to say, is that sometimes, one is so busy being hopeful and trusting (with the full awareness of how often one fails of that resolve) there is not much time for the careful, thoughtful Ideas one longs to write about. I would apologise for this, but instead I merely ask that you bear with me. I want to write about things that matter, nor content myself with babbling.
I saw a young Hawk take a Meadowlark in midair. It was during the first week of Lent, a bright, cold morning, heavy with frost, gilded with the first golden sunlight that means that spring is coming, for all the chill. There was a brief struggle between the two beautiful, dappled creatures; cries of hunger and distress, the flare and beat of wings, and a plunge - Mors et Vita duello...
It has been a wet, long winter here in mountains of the Far west. Heavy storms, one after another, bringing at times, rain, at others, snow. Wild always, with an unmitigated sea-wind driving them; a hard winter for the foolish, hardy thing that make their homes in such high and inhospitable places.
The Hawk was hungry. It tossed the lovely breast feathers - yellow and grey, soft and warm, so that the air was full of the ghost of the Meadowlark. It keened as it ate, like a small child, humming at its dinner. The other birds, well hidden in the surrounding pines, scolded it at first . Jays, and Junco, Chickadees and Kinglets, called out together - in warning, perhaps, or in fear. Then one by one they fell silent, until the Hawk and the Meadowlark were alone, in a circle of silence. There was a slight ring around them, of pale yellow down, already being blowing away in the cold morning wind, a drop or two of blood, glowing warmly against the snow.
When the first edge of its hunger was dulled, the Hawk flew into the willows to finish his meal. The willows were ruddy with the first flush of wakening sap. The brilliantly, dappled breast of the Hawk turned him into a creature of snow and shadow, easily lost in the willow shade. He ate in a small storm of flying feathers, methodically now, no longer a hungry child, but as a man might, at the end of a day's hard labour. He would occasionally look out into the solitary silence around it - his fine head like the profile on a coin, his eyes glowing, beautiful both in design and skill.
I went to look at the spot, when he finally flew away with the last of the Meadowlark. Does that sound macabre to you - not only that I should have taken such joy in watching the terrible dance of life and death played out in the morning before me, but that, when it was done, I should go to study the place once it had been left abandoned? There is a solemn beauty about such places - and that little hollow amongst the willow shoots and pine boughs was no exception. There was a sunset of colour there - wing feathers, striped buff and rufus, the astonishing yellow feathers from the Meadowlark's breast, the small spots of bright orange blood, on fire amongst them. I have not seen a great many kills in my life time, but whenever I have come across them, I am always surprised by the littleness of blood, and the diversity of feathers. They were surprisingly alike in colour, the Hawk and the Meadowlark, all bars and dapples. There was a faint, foolish hope that one of those bright feathers had fallen from the hunter.
Perhaps it was because Lent was newly upon me, or because of the Latin lines from the Easter antiphon that came into my mind at the sight of the birds, but there was a feeling of great content that came with seeing Hawk and the Meadowlark, the hunter and hunted, life and death, in glourious combat locked. There was sorrow for the Meadowlark - sorrow that such a brightly beautiful, singing creature - designed by God to be pleasing to eye and ear - should die in blood upon the snow. But there was joy - even exultation - in the glory and power of the Hawk, in it doing so perfectly, precisely what it was designed to do, and in the one great beauty giving life to the other. There was a sense of splendor, a right ordering of things, the peace of death at the end of life well spent. The Hand of God showed in all of it - the love with which He shaped and shaded His beautiful little creatures, the joy He gave and took in the making. He knows each one of them, more intimately than a mother knows her child, and suffers none of them fall without putting His hand out to catch or bless. And it seemed to me to be a parable - that sometimes, God takes away a good thing in us, that we treasure, not to cause us pain or sorrow, but so that an even better good thing might grow in its place and be nourished by the good that came before.
I remember when I met you.
You were younger than I'd expected,
With red hair, I'd always fancied -
Though I'd forgotten, til I met you.
You were easy for me to talk to
- Me, eccentric, shy and silent -
Found delight in conversation,
When I talked and sat beside you.
You were good, but wild also,
Fierce and knightly, faithful, errant,
Who wakened Joy and Hope within me:
My bravest self I was with you.
But we are old now, me and you:
Sorrow between us, our chances spent.
We've traded our Joy for hard-bought peace...
I miss who we were, when I met you.