At pivotal moments in my life, I've often noted the presence of birds.

When I crossed the threshold into a greater awareness around the age of 8, I was startled by a bird calling out in the night. The sound had scared me so much that I stopped breathing for some time and was taken to the hospital. Also, the bird wasn't actually there.

For years after that night, I despised birds. I was embarrassed and confused by what had happened, so I blamed all birds. Thankfully, in the time since the first bird's call, I have stopped fearing their messages. Now I welcome them and see them as a chance to shut out the mental chatter, be still, and listen to something I might have been missing.

These are a few of the stories I have of birds as symbols:

A few years ago, I had a vision of an eagle's open beak in meditation. The head of a turtle fit perfectly within the beak. It was a strange image, but I have loved turtles ever since I read the Grapes of Wrath. It was my first experience with symbolism in literature. When I understood the meaning the turtle held in the story, a veil was lifted from my eyes. I started seeing the deeper significance in books and in life all around me. 

I felt the turtle represented the grounded, slow, and purposeful parts of me, and the eagle was the side of me I had just discovered--untethered, able to see from a grander perspective, graceful, and masterful. I held onto the eagle/turtle image, feeling as though its meaning would deepen in time.


When I decided to reach out and make peace with a close family member after years of no communication, I found doves nesting in the flowers on my front porch a moment later.


Soon after that, I visited a bird sanctuary on a short day trip. I did not expect to become obsessed with raptors but being that close to magnificent hawks, eagles, owls, and falcons made me want to learn more about them. I went home and began a novel that starts and ends in a bird sanctuary.


Walking into a hospital, fighting a fear of enclosed spaces, large machines whirring around my head, and medical procedures, I looked off into the trees across from the building. Two hawks were standing sentinel on the tree tops as if to say, "You're safe. You're not alone."


One morning in meditation I was awash in gratitude. The only sound was my breath and my whisper: Sa Ta Na Ma. My spine was straight, my eyes were closed and focused on the point where the metaphorical third eye sits in the center of my forehead. Interrupting the near silence, a flock of geese honked in their off-key inharmonious way and flew over the house.

I smiled and was struck by the sense that I had been given another message.

In the discordant honking I heard:

I am to prepare for a change of course. I should know that my family is devoted and I am never alone.

I finished chanting Sa Ta Na Ma, the mantra meaning Birth, Life, Death, Rebirth until I took one more purposeful, profound breath.


I often write posts that sit in my queue for weeks and get deleted. These ghost posts are certainly therapeutic, but not always meant to share publicly, and not always appealing to other people.

As I lifted my keys off the keyboard after finishing the post above, I walked to the door to investigate a harsh cawing sound in my backyard. Three crows were hopping around and swooping through the air frantically. I heard the alarm call of another smaller bird, too. I've learned that these calls usually mean a larger predator is lurking.

Then I spotted him. A hawk soared into the yard and landed on the lowest branch of my favorite tree. He lifted off again, came to rest on the ground at the base of the tree, and began tearing at something with its beak. 

A Lovely Red-Tailed Hawk
(Not my red-tailed hawk. My photos didn't do him justice.)

It would rip, gulp, and swivel its head to look out for thieves. I watched in reverence until I made a break for my camera. He guarded and ate his prey, letting me photograph him and step closer all the while.

He was aware of my presence. I know he saw me. Perhaps he sensed I was in awe and just wanted to share a little of his magic.

When he was good and finished he spread his wings and took flight into a nearby tree. I snapped a few more pictures and watched him navigate the trees and houses until he reached the open sky.

I felt touched by the divine in a unique way. An animal I revere flew right into my yard to visit and let me admire him for just a little while.

The delight and wonder of the encounter would have been enough. But beyond that, I saw it as a reminder to be in the moment. I can see more of my surroundings if I open my eyes and decide to look. So much of life can pass us by if we run through it blindly. 

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