I Have a Hawk on my Head

Yes, I have a hawk on my head.  I met this beautiful creature in Cuba.  I think her wings must have been clipped and that makes me sad, because she should fly, but I’m grateful to meet her face to face.  As she sat on my arm I marveled at her dainty talons.  Of course, if I were a mouse I might not find her so winsome.

I’ve been drawing birds for years, and I admire hawks especially. I made this drawing of two osprey as a gift for my grandmother. For years a mating pair made a home and raised their chicks in a tree at her home in Sag Harbor. They disappeared for a while, because of DDT. Then they came back. Thank you, Rachel Carson!
[As I wrote this, spell check changed “a mating” into “amazing”, and that works for me.]
 

This makes me think of my brother, Rob Swanson, a photographer and former hang glider–I think that’s as close to flying as a human can get.  He told me he once came up behind a hawk in flight and startled him badly.  

 Here’s Rob’s osprey.  I feel sorry for the poor fish, but that’s life; the osprey has to feed his family.  Rob said, “You know, in the moment before he died, that fish had a chance to view the world in a way he never had before.” I wonder what consolation that was?

For years Rob worked as a photographer for the Burlington Free Press.  During the 2016 presidential primaries his shot of a young Bernie Sanders celebrating his victory as mayor of Burlington was on every front page in the nation.  Now Rob’s concentrating on birds.

You can see more of Rob’s work at Rob Swanson Photography

When I’m with Rob I’m much more aware of the birds around us.  He especially loves to watch turkey vultures soar for hours on thermal air currents just like hang gliders. Or the other way around.
My grandson Teddy said, “I’ve heard bad things abut vultures.”  But does he know the vulture’s service to the earth?  Did you know that when cholera and other deadly diseases, often found in carrion, pass through the vulture’s body they disappear?  Let’s hear it for the Vulture–nature’s sanitation engineer!

I continue to find it amazing that every living thing has a place and a purpose. It takes me to the Bible verse my grandparents took as their motto; Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those that love the Lord, to those that are the called according to His purpose.”  

I’ll be writing about 8:28 in the future, about how it offers me great comfort and makes me scratch my head, perplexed, both in the same moment.  

Here’s another verse that has sustained me in times of despair; “They shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles.”

Vengeance is Not Mine

 

Revenge? We’ve all got better things to do–like making art

We  read in the daily news that revenge leads to an endless spiral of destruction and death.  The Bible has plenty to say about vengeance and we’ll get to that later.

I’ve seen it first hand.  Well, maybe not total destruction and death but it was bad enough to make me stop and think.

This goes back to dancing school in the seventh grade.   I arrived late and two extra boys were sitting it out, waiting for a partner.  The teacher made them shoot for who would dance with me;  Alan Simenek ended up dancing with me and said to everyone within earshot; “So I lost!”   This is while I have to dance with him! He thought it was so funny he said it about twenty times.  How could I have responded to that with dignity and also utterly quash him–or at least make him feel bad?

After fifty years do you think I can forgive a man for what he said as an awkward 12 year old?   You think?  As Barbara Bush would say, why am I messing my beautiful mind with that?

Here are  two incidents that convinced me to get out of the revenge business.

When I was young I had a bad boyfriend. He wasn’t physically abusive but he thought the way to keep me was to make me think nobody else would want me.  He was also unfaithful.  My self confidence took quite a battering but I eventually got out of town and found a much nicer boyfriend.  I spent many years thinking of what would be a fit punishment for that bad boyfriend.  A slow painful death?  Living in the street?  He went on to marry and have children but his wife left him for a woman.  That would have hurt his ego in a big way.  In all my vengeful fantasies I hadn’t come up with that one.

When my kids were little my fellow playground parents and I tried to get the city to make some improvements in a local park–nothing fancy, just self closing gates and some clean sand.   Other people in the neighborhood felt we were invading their personal space and they fought back with a vengeance. They hung signs on my building accusing me of financing my lavish life style by embezzling park funds and sent me a registered letter demanding to see our books.   One gravel voiced dame called us “the mothers–and I use the term in the pejorative.”   I had plenty of sleepless nights thinking up the perfect response.   However, lately, and this is 25 years later,  I’ve seen the ring leader around the neighborhood and she has something wrong with her back so that she walks bent over completely at the hip, like–a wicked witch.  I swear, I wouldn’t have wished that on my worst enemy, which she sort of was.

Saint Paul talks about this in his letter to the Romans.  Now, a lot of people, especially women, have issues with Paul, because he said women should keep silent in the church and should submit to their husbands.  I know of one eminent clergyman who grew up knowing nothing of Paul because his church lady mother literally cut all of Paul’s letters out of the family Bible.   But, like everything interesting in life, Paul is complicated.  Many of his letters open with cheerful and loving greetings to the women who, even in his day, were the backbone of the church. So I’m going to forgive him for what I don’t agree with and not reject him completely.

This is what he says about Vengeance.

“Love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.  Live in Harmony with one another…do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil.  If it is possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine,’ says the Lord.”

I have seen with my own eyes that when the Lord says; “Vengeance is mine,” He doesn’t mess around.

But maybe I shouldn’t blame the Lord.   Maybe meanness is a scorpion that  curls back upon itself and the punishment for meanness is living a life of meanness.

And that’s so not me and you!

Do you have a revenge fantasy taking up space in your mind?   Post it here.   Get it off your chest, free your beautiful mind and

 (Here’s another motto for your bulletin board)