I have always been fascinated by birds of prey. Indeed they have held a fascination for most of humankind throughout history; their folklore crossing time, geography and culture. To the ancient Egyptians the hawk was a symbol of the sun god Ra, to the Celts they were messengers of the spirit realms, in Ancient Greece they were the symbol of Apollo and on the North American content they were revered by some Native tribes as symbols of courage, freedom and spiritual protection. Down through the ages raptors have been the symbol of a divine messenger, offering guidance and protection.

In a more recent time and more intimate place, my own mother would atoll the virtues of raptors and her own spirit animal, the peregrine falcon.

I never thought much about her words or the many myths surrounding these stealthy aviators until, very shortly after the breakup of my first marriage. Finding myself alone with a small child to raise, that winter felt especially desolate. Come spring I noticed a pair of redtail hawks building a nest in the largest tree set in the center of my backyard.

For a few years that same mated pair of redtail hawks would come back each spring to nest in the large maple. Their return would harken the changing of the seasons. Admittedly, I am a summer lover; the minority in the household. The long days and warm weather are comforting to me as I finally strip off the heavy layers of winter while the other three revel at first in the orange hues and brisk air of fall and eventually the gray skies and snow of winter.

Raptors and Roses

And so it would go each year – the return of the hawks meant the return of light and warm days just as their first appearance was a sign of lighter days to come after an isolating time.

Until one season, they stopped. Remarried with another child by now, I didn’t know why they chose to move on, just accepted it was time and noted the disheartening lack of their presence. It was both humbling and comforting to have them so close, as aerial neighbors – much like people from the past, I had a sense of protection under their watchful nest. As the summers came and went the kids and I would cast our eyes to the sky in search of all manor of raptors that call our area home. Our friends, the redtail hawks, were always in the area but never as close by as before.

On the summer solstice I make it a point to get out into nature with my children. We enjoy the greenery, pick roses and lavender from our yard to adorn vases indoors and celebrate the first day of summer. This year it happened to be just me and my youngest, my daughter. We found ourselves at the playground which borders both schools my children attend. She surprised me with a request to leave the playground (something she is normally loath to do) and take a walk along the brook that borders the park.

Away we went, her running just slightly ahead – she stopped and leaned over, picked up something from the ground and turned to me. Her face alight with excitement as she ran back towards me with a pristine redtail hawk feather in hand. We continued on together and in total we found three redtail feathers that day. Our lucky day!

As she and I placed the feathers with the roses and lavender we collected earlier that day the message had not been lost. Much of the magic of these birds started with the tutelage of my own mother and it hadn’t fully left. The pair of redtails took their leave when we were no longer in need of protecting but our connection to them through the generations remained steadfast.

Raptors and Roses

The interconnectedness of it all, as they say, is both subtle and profound. I am humbled and grateful for their spiritual protection when it was needed and now for their guidance and kinship as I watch my children sprout their own wings. One day they too will move on from my watchful eye, out of our carefully created nest to weather different seasons and build nests of their own.

I have no doubt the hawks will follow.