Kindred Spirits

Written by: Chris D. Aechtner

~(tanka haibun)~


    Awakened from my walking reverie by movement ahead, I spy a Red-Tailed Hawk perched upon the wrought-iron railing of the flood-wall. The hawk is regal, stoic beauty. I stop walking in hopes of urging the bird of prey to stay its perch. It does, filling me with a sense of relief. I wonder why it let me get so close; if it was my calm, thoughts-up-in-the-clouds, meditative stroll that somehow rendered my thoughts and steps silent enough to catch the bird unawares. We eye each other, a bitter gust of mid-winter wind blows against my face; ruffles the back-feathers of the hawk. I am overwhelmed by a sensation how the two of us know exactly what we are, who we are, what we are supposed to be doing overall, but we are presently caught in a moment of unknowns, letting these unknowns erase the lines that keep us separate -- beast from human. 
I take a step closer, causing the hawk to finally alight, and I am struck by its vibrant feathers adding a dash of colour to the surrounding monochromatic grays. 
The hawk flies only a short distance ahead before landing on the railing again, so we re-enact the scene of this play. I come closer, closer, closer, until the hawk lifts up, flies a bit further along the river-walk, before landing again, until eventually it probably decides, that indeed, this human is going to traverse the entire path, for the hawk flies up into trees located further ahead. As I walk past the trees, the hawk launches out of an evergreen, with twigs in its talons. The bird flies over the river; a river made tumultuous by ice-melt.

in Winter's gray light
a Red-Tailed Hawk paints the sky 
with its feathers,
my soul lifts, follows the bird
over an ice-gorged river

The hawk lands on the base of a church steeple, and disappears behind an ornately carved corner. It appears as if the steeple is attempting to pierce the snow-clouds with its tip, trying to tear gashes in the sky, until spring blue bleeds into gray. On this Tuesday afternoon, does the church seem personified because it is devoid of Sunday parishioners milling in and out of its thick wooden doors? No matter how hard the steeple tries to break-apart the clouds, the grand sky dwarfs the church, causing it to look like a toy model. The church fluctuates between looking like a miniature-scale model, and an architectural feat.

with defiance
the steeple pierces clouds
looming overhead -
the snow-laden clouds
make the church appear small

Passing the church, I find it ironic how today the church is empty inside, yet on its steeple and roof-lines, countless animals are nesting, making this House of God their sanctuary. Slowly making my way home, I ponder about the hawk, how it is not only a predator amongst prey, but a predator amongst predators -- it flies around in plain sight, yet also hides right in the middle of the city. Coming up to the path leading to the back-door of my home, I scan a small trail of footprints in the snow. The footprints vary, but all are familiar to me. 
It is at precisely this moment that I fully acknowledge the Red-Tailed Hawk and I to be kindred spirits; how similar we really are.

the path leading home
is a winding snowy trail
of few footprints,
for only my loved ones know
where I truly live



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