Before I completely lose the sensation of summer, I wanted to honor a message I received recently from a young hawk. One afternoon I was out orienting a new volunteer at the horse rescue when I was approached by another volunteer. “Hey bird lady, there’s a hawk with a broken wing out in the east pasture. Can you go check it out?”

So, new volunteer in tow, I rounded up a pair of gloves, a towel and a rubbermaid tub. We traipsed all the way out there, through the weeds, and along the fence lines. No hawk. I must admit, I was relieved. It is a paradox to receive a message from the spirit world carried on the back of a suffering animal. I feel humbled in the gift and smacked with my ignorance, not to mention the heartache of my empathy for the animal. Somehow I always wonder, “did I not hear the message the first time?”

I figured, wrongly, that the hawk had wandered onto the neighbor’s property to die in peace in the brush. The next morning I was approached again, “Hey bird lady…”

I drove out into the pasture in the golf cart with a pair of adult red-tails swirling and screaming overhead. There was the small beast standing stoic in the shade of the horse shelter. He had no fight left and the terrible stench of rotting flesh about him. His right wing was fractured. The dead, black bone stuck out an inch. A marble-sized colony of maggots had laid waste to the wound.

Immature red-tail feathers. I know them so well. An old friend of mine was in that plummage for most of the year we spent together. My dear Graccia often had that same determined look in her eye. There was no taking her off course.

“Just give up the ghost,” I said to the injured hawk as it stood in the box staring at me. There was no flesh left on his body. All the energy he had remaining was put to standing there, staring at me.

He died later that afternoon and my husband buried him under the old cottonwood.

So… the message? The active principle (right side wing) was broken, long dead, in my life. The effort that I had put forth into the world (the pair of hawks fledging a young hawk) had failed at its moment of glory. I had been stubbornly sitting on this failure too long (rotting wound). Put in plain terms, my inability to live in the season of summer, live in the fruition of my dreams, had become a systemic problem that had grounded me for way too long and that threatened to destroy my entire way of life.

Sounds dramatic, I know, but, wow, this hawk gave his life. We often hope for angels, miracles, and beams of light from heaven. We think divine messages come on wings, and, guess what? They actually do.