The Hawk
by Brett Donaldson

Although no members of the two families of raptors that constitute the Hawks came forth during the weekend field trip, I have chosen to write about them as I feel a strong affiliation with and to them.

To begin with the science of the birds goes something like this. In Australia the two families of birds of prey are the Accipitridae, which includes the Kites, Goshawks, Eagles and Harriers. This family is described as birds with short heads, broad wings hooked bills, large talons and often seen soaring and the family Falconidae, that includes the Falcons, Kestrels and the Hobby. This family is described as birds with toothed upper bills, a dark cap or teardrop check mark, long pointed wings and swift flight. Collectively they make up what we like to call the Hawks.

For about six to seven years I have been aware of and involved with these birds. Back in 1990 I spent countless days down at Walkerville lying on my back, hiding in bushes in the mud and rain with a camera and a keen set of eyes. These Hawks were Swamp Harriers, I was able to discern the pattern of flight and time their appearance from where I was hiding. I was totally enthralled with their activity and was gone for hours and hours, largely ignorant of the people waiting on me.

Some years earlier I was visiting Cape York peninsular and central Australia and again I was lost in the activities of very large Hawk family members. When I was close to them they showed little sign of fear and quite the contrary there was an acknowledgment and acceptance of each-other. However, their real significance of this interaction did not occur to me until much latter.

Their importance to me developed at a time when I was very ill and confused. When I finally made it out of hospital late 1994, I was looking for purpose and meaning with the events of the last months and the new and evolving life I had just embarked upon. Part of my recovery involved spending extended hours by myself walking along the beach in that place I have come to call home. There were countless encounters with such Hawk birds, ranging from kestrels to large kites, and were similar to the encounters I witnessed many times as a child.

The two most important encounters occurred at times when I was at a very low place and questioning the most. One event resulted upon hearing the squawks of a bird that did not seem familiar to me or normal to that area, yet I knew what it was. As it turned out there was a large Kite on a branch over the path, and I watched that bird for sometime but the other people on the path paid no attention to the noise or the bird. My attention was rewarded when its mate showed up and they commenced an unbelievable sky dance, it was almost surreal and nobody else seemed to notice. If nothing else, this event lifted my heart very high and answered a question in my head; it also gave me the relief I needed at the time.

The second encounter occurred when I was again in a similar frame of mind. Again as I entered the beach path on a foggy June morning a large dark kite moved past me, as if to get my attention. It landed on a branch a little in front of me. We stood there and checked each-other out for some time. For the next hour and a half we played leapfrog with each other along the path. Every spot it landed on was a position where I had often rested, either on the beach or along the path on several occasions before. This was amazing as we both seemed to know each-others movements or at least desired the same resting-place. I do not recall being as excited or as passionate about anything much as at that moment. That co-joining on our shared path was the necessary message I needed to continue my development as an environmentalist. The Hawks now come to me in dreams and meditations and I find myself using them as metaphors when interpreting or trying to understand the world around me, I do not seem to be without them physically or mentally or perhaps even spiritually.

I know when those birds are around; I know when they are going to be hunting on the cliffs. Our paths cross in the sense that when I need to feel secure I go to the beach and more often than not they are there hovering and hunting. Just like me searching for the necessities of life. That full belly, that feeling of home.

So what is it about Hawks that I can see in myself? For a start they are noted as solitary birds that soar and seek live prey, however they sometimes pair with a mate for various reasons that do not always involve reproduction. Again, some are known to form bands to feed together. They can be quite vicious and swift yet often present at a distance, observing the nature and patterns of things. This something I seem to do in my own human way. Some members are unobserved before it is too late. For me they posses an inner or spiritual strength that I feel is in myself in a similar knowing way.
In a different way the Hawk possesses faith, it trusts in the Tao as I do. For the Hawk and I the path is invisible and the energy of faith comes from the air, the sun and the play of the wind.

In some cultures, such as the Roman and Greek, the Hawk is regarded as the representation of evil on earth, often depicted as doing battle with serpents and an ancient symbol of conflict. Conflict is something that I am no stranger to. There are also the metaphors of the Hawks as being tenacious, using their attributes such as their talons to hold on, keen sight and judgement and their patient hovering and waiting. For myself, I can be tenacious when need be and people tell me I am patient. However, I consider myself patient up to a point and then I usually take swift action or move away.

In indigenous American societies the Hawk is regarded as akin to Mercury a messenger of the Gods. Their message is often related to being aware of yourself, your surroundings and the pattern of things, these are qualities or values I hold as truths. The Hawk and I also share the ability to be removed from a situation and take an overview of things. The Hawk is aware of omens and messages that it freely passes on to those that will listen. Again this is something I tend to do when I am balanced, centered or at ease with myself. I like and am often able to help others with their problems.

My father often said “Brett you have the eyes of an Eagle or Hawk and a brave and kind heart, but you are swift to strike when aroused”. This is also a trait some indigenous cultures attribute to Hawks.

On a opposing or down side, Hawk people when off balance forget to soar and allow their vision and perceptions to be blocked out and become emotional at which time chaos and confusion take over. That also sounds like me.