The winter was brutally cold. Weeks on end below zero degrees Fahrenheit, with wind chill minus 20 to 30. Even when the sun came out, it was bitter cold and dangerous to go outside. Our acre garden spent the winter covered in snow. No hellebores blooming through February for us. A couple of years ago we began feeding the birds that wintered with us. Word has gotten out in the neighborhood. We now are feeding a large group of birds that, on most days, function politely at the various feeders.
There are always moments, though, when all the birds disappear. That is when a hawk comes through looking for a meal. If a bird remains in the branches of a tree he is usually safe. The hawk cannot maneuver through the tangle to reach its prey. Only when a bird makes a run for safety is it lost. The hawk will appear nonchalant until a bird dashes from its out-in-the-open hiding spot. Then the hawk will strike like a laser.
The irony is that hiding in plain sight in the tangle of the branches is actually the safest choice. Yet the birds tend to feel exposed, or they feel the hawk’s dangerous vibration of no vibration. Even instinct will not save a bird fearing death.
On one of those below-zero days in February, we were remaining warm in the comfort of the house, congregating close to the fire, when one of us noticed the hawk on an ash tree branch ten feet from the house. In the downstairs rooms there is a great view, so we all scurried down the stairs to the window.
The drama was unfolding. The hawk was cold, so he would only stand on one leg at a time. The other he would tuck under him in the warmth of his feathers. Shifting side to side, side to side. We were so engrossed in watching the hawk’s regal and martial stance and dance that we were missing the real drama playing out before our eyes. As if the curtain had opened and we were entranced by the star, we needed to expand our awareness to see the whole stage. As we each adjusted to the hawk one by one we noticed an equally compelling actor, a blue jay.
The blue jay was clinging with both feet to a branch of the snowbell tree not ten feet away from the hawk. He was staring at the hawk. The blue jay was mesmerized, unable to move, even in the extreme cold. He never blinked, and no matter how cold he was he did not even shiver. He was one pointed on the hawk. Even while the hawk appeared nonchalant, the blue jay was riveted and lost in the hawk. Minutes went by, which seemed like hours of intense drama. Everything was on high alert, with life and death in the balance.
We, the audience, were in awe of the performance; we barely moved ourselves. Each of us now moved our focus from the hawk to the blue jay and back to the hawk. What was each going to do? Who would make the first move? Could the blue jay in its terror not be able to stand it one more minute and make a run for it? What was going to happen? In the bare, relaxed movement of the hawk and the frozen one-pointedness of the blue jay, the externals were minimal, yet internally all was vibrantly alive, so utterly important. Life and death was playing out before our eyes. The actors were magnificent.
Then, offstage, there was a sound and apparent movement. The hawk exited stage right. In an instant the drama was over, but the other actor remained onstage, so caught in the moment that he could not move. The blue jay was still frozen, unable to free himself from his one-pointedness. We were now rooting for him and wanted him to leave. We called out and banged to get him out of his Samadhi. He became aware of the mundane once more and flew away.
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