Monday, April 28, 2008

A Red Tail Hawk, A Woodpecker And The Wildwinds

So what is your power animal? In Native American tradition, each one of us has one, if not several power animals that, like guardian angels, provide us insight and guidance throughout our lives.

We can have many animal totems; some may come and others go throughout our entire life. If you read my story of Ooodee the Owl, you may realize that I have an affinity for owls - this is one of my totems.

In my own personal life, I have been blessed with the visits of many totems and power animals; some turned out to be mine, some claimed others. I have been visited by coyote, bear, eagle, bat, the great horned owl, the barn owl, hummingbird, mountain lion, and some creatures that come from other realms (that's for another story). These visits aren't your ordinary run-of-the-mill I saw the creature on the side-of-the-road type visits. My run-ins have been up close and personal. But this day I would like to share with you my story of the red tail hawk.

I've seen several red tail hawks in my life, but never up close until the last eight years. I've lived in the Sierra Nevada on the western slope for more than twenty-years, with a brief five-year split at year thirteen. In the year 2000, I moved back and have been here this time eight years. We moved into our little valley in June of 2000 and promptly discovered that we had a mating pair of red tail hawks in the trees that line the ridge east of our home.

Between us and the ridge lay our meadows which tend to be excellent hunting grounds for these sharp-eyed and taloned hunters. Near the edge of our meadow stands a young thirty-foot pine tree which serves as our red tail hawk's perch. Red tail hawks are monogamous, mating for life and tend to stay in one area. Some red tail hawk families and breeds have been known to stay in one area for over forty-five years.

In reading Tom and Penelope Pauley's I'm Rich Beyond My Wildest Dreams, I am, I am, I am, Tom tells the story of how a red tail hawk landed next to him on a beach in Southern California. He learned that this had special meaning. In Native American beliefs, if a hawk lands near you, it means that he is bringing a message from the Great Spirit. In Tom's case not only did the hawk land, but then it brought back its mate.

As a rule, red tail hawks don't land near people at all. So this was pretty special. When I read that in their book in 2006, I experienced a twinge. I had the same thing happen - only it's a bit different. (She *grins*)

Looking out to our meadows from our deck (which is one story above the ground) one spring day I noticed that there was a baby hawk on the ground about 50 feet away on the edge of our driveway. I walked to the edge of the deck and I could see that it stood looking down the hill at another hawk, which was twice as big.

This larger red tail hawk seemed to be fighting with something - wrestling as it were. For a minute I thought that a huge owl was fighting with my red tail hawk! I ran downstairs and out to the driveway where I stood overlooking the edge of the hill upon which our home is built. I didn't like the look of things - I saw a hawk head which had that Thunderbird flat top and curved beak from Native American lore and a flutter of lots of wings and some screeches - I thought for sure my hawk was being injured.

I picked up a rock and threw it near the birds in hopes of breaking the fight up. Though I loved owls, red tail hawks had recently come into my life and I didn't want either bird hurt.

I got the surprise of my life. My two birds, one of which I thought was an owl - wasn't! It was our male and female red tail hawks. They'd been mating while the young-one looked on. So if a red tail hawk brings its mate to your side, there is a message indeed, but what happens when he brings his female to mate with in your presence - and brings baby along for the ride as well?
I still ponder this question as I am not sure where it leads but know the Universe will provide. In reading up on power animals, I discovered that in Native American horoscopes, my totem is the red tail hawk, which makes me a messenger of sorts. My husband's happens to be the large woodpecker. Another creature of nature that spends a lot of time with us. Only the woodpecker has taken a liking to our wooden house, finding lots of nice places to put its nuts.

My husband shoots around the woodpeckers with a BB gun in hopes of scaring them away (you can't kill them as they are protected). The woodpeckers try to drive their nuts into the small crevices of our home that only they can find. We even put up a "pecker pole" for them when PG&E replaced our telephone pole due to all the "pecking" it had undergone. They gave us the old pole for free. I've got pictures for proof.

After going to all the trouble of putting up the pole for them, complete with lots of woodpecker holes already, instead of using it like we suggested they do, they began using it as a staging ground for our home. Not good. Woodpeckers can cause a lot of damage. I told my husband to talk to them, ask them to leave, but he declined as he felt the BB gun worked better.

One day I suggested he call in the aid of the red tail hawks (this - before I knew they were my totem and I could call them). At times, I know he must think I'm nuts, but I've experienced the aid of all sorts of creatures at many different times in my life. He ignored me. But on this particular day, the woodpeckers called upon our house early in the morning and he ran out the back door pumping and shooting. Just as he got off a shot from the BB gun, we heard the cry of the red tail hawk, kreeee, kreee, kree, kreeeeeeee overhead.

We ran around to the front deck just in time to see the red tail hawk swoop down from above and pluck the woodpecker right out of the air. The woodpecker taken was the alpha male. We haven't been bothered since. Oh, every now and then a peck can be heard, but for the most part, the woodpeckers stick to the trees.

And my red tail hawk? He slices through the air at the back of the house now and then, but mostly perches right where I can call him if needed. Just the other day when the Wildwinds were up and moving hard and fast, he jumped off from his pine perch and headed straight for the house, looking me straight in the eye. He turned and banked head on into the oncoming winds kreeing with joy as he did so.

He was looking for that updraft, that thermal and fighting against the wind with all his strength to get there.

For I know that he knows that to get the greatest lift, sometimes you have to fly straight into the wind.

By: Laurie J Brenner

Former managing editor of a small town newspaper, Brenner authored The Little Book of Becoming; she's also currently polishing Changing Planes, a metaphysical fiction and is fast at work on her newest novel.

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