Have you ever had a special soul in your life? One that shares her wisdom, motivation, and strength with you? Perhaps a parent, grandparent, aunt, teacher, or even an animal.
I’ve had wonderful teachers in my life and one of them just transitioned.
Nine years ago when I signed up to be a volunteer environmental educator for the forest preserves, I thought I was doing good by giving back to the community and helping children to learn how amazing our natural world is. I did not realize how much support, growth, and community, I needed at the time when I signed up. You see, I was going thru a difficult divorce at the time.
As a certified teacher, I found fulfillment in leading classes of students on their field trips to the preserves. I also learned several things about nature and myself along the way. There were many staff members who I can thank for the support and scientific explanations for but there is one animal who reminded me of my courage. Her name is Hawk.
I was asked to care for the Red Tail Hawk and Screech Owl who were rehabbed and used in the classrooms and field trips, to teach children about wild birds of prey. I was thrilled to be trained in how to handle and feed these magnificent creatures.
Hawk, as they called her, was a beautiful, large, female who had an injured wing and could not fly more than a few feet off the ground. She was rehabbed and brought to the preserve to use in teaching programs.
She was a regal, bossy, sassy, and demanding hawk who demanded respect and reminded me to do the same. She felt responsible for the wild hawks in the area, her clan, and always called out to them as they flew over her muse. I nicknamed her Momma. She lived to be 33 years old, setting a record for the longest living Red Tail Hawk in captivity.
My job was to feed her and clean her muse where she resided. I did not realize that she would be helping me, as I was helping her and caring for her. How did she help me? Well, we had many conversations about life, while I cared for her. You see, the process of feeding her was to wear a long leather glove, which she would jump onto or fly onto, and then you had to hold your arm steady as she sat on the glove and consumed the food. She usually consumed rats but got bored with those and requested, that I suggest they mix up her diet, which they, surprisingly did. Her diet consisted of rats, mice, and quail. Sometimes the occasional chipmunk would be foolish enough to enter her muse, but not for long. Even though she was in captivity, she still had a fierce desire to hunt.
My first experience with being trained in how to handle her didn’t go so well. When you are working with wild animals, you must be very aware of their tools for killing. I was guided to be aware of her beak and talons. I heeded this warning. What happened when I invited her to fly onto the glove the first time, is a bit funny.
I held my arm steady, it’s not easy to hold your arm still for 15 minutes while holding a 3-4 lbs. raptor who is dissecting a rat. As she tore off the head of the rat and swallowed it, she then proceeded to pick and pull out the bloodiest, body parts of the rat and splatter me with them. When she was finished, I looked like I just walked out of a murder scene. The other educator who was training me was laughing and laughing. She said she had never seen Hawk make such a mess, deliberately directed onto her handler (me).
Knowing this, I asked Hawk why she had made such a mess on me. She told me it was her initiation process. Her special way of welcoming me into her tribe. Gee, I guess I’m honored. I’m happy to say during the 9 years of feeding her that was the only time she ever made a mess on me.
We had a special relationship…I would go out to feed her and she would coach me on life lessons. Over the past nine years, she helped me thru break-ups, startups, guiding me to stand in my power, and so much more.
I will continue to write about her in future articles, as her wisdom can also help you with your life lessons. I wish to keep her legacy going as she is one special soul. I love her and miss her dearly.
Until we meet again, Momma.