Lift Up Your Eyes

There’s fine stuff up there that I see and I wish I could snap with my Canon EOS, but it’s all moving so fast. I try to get a focus and blink! Gone. Maybe in my next life I’ll get to be a photographer and figure out how to capture an image of perfect form and function, on the move.

Hannibal and the missus have at least one juvenile out of the nest today, learning to do those things that hawks do. This morning it was aerial acrobatics. Straight high speed streaks from tree to tree, landing on the very best branches for preening, resting, scoping out the next meal. Diving and soaring from one level to the next, offspring close on the tail of parent. Loop de loops that look for all the world like just plain joie de vivre. Seriously,it does make my heart beat faster to see the grace and compact beauty of these raptors. Then, after a midday rest, they were back out and Hannibal demonstrated the fine art of snatching a finch in mid-flight while his heir apparent watched from a high branch just beyond the nest.

These Coopers Hawks remind me of a poem by James Dickey, The Heaven of Animals.* Not that Hannibal and his family appear to be headed for Heaven any time soon, although you never know. It’s just that the poem explains heaven to me in a way that make sense and defines the very essence of these birds. In the poem, these creatures of the earth are simple, not confounded by things like souls in need of salvation. And they get to go to a heaven where they are more purely and simply what they are, in a most perfect way. There’s joy for them in that heaven.
Then there’s all that stuff up there I can’t see, forget about taking a picture.

My dearest friend just buried her 13 month old grandson after he died from complications of a congenital heart defect. He left behind two young sisters who would like to know exactly what and where this Heaven is all about. They are 5 and 3 and I think the 5 year old is just old enough to be suspect of something that sounds both like a fairy tale and incomprehensible to a lot of the grown-ups around her.

At what age are you the right age to make a giant leap of faith? Because that’s what this bit about Heaven takes, right? A huge step. Bigger than a man on the moon step. I guess it’s pretty individual and some people make that leap without much question while others wrestle with it for years and years. I know there are lots of times I’m thinking hmmm, this makes no rational sense whatsoever. Which is, I suspect, the whole point of believing. Right now, I’m thinking this tiny boy, who went through so much to live and gave joy to so many, is in the Heaven of Babies, which must also be a place that is simple
and pure and uncomplicated. You get to be a perfect baby with a whole
heart, held in loving arms forever.
I’m sad for my friend and her family, more than I can say. I wish I was back in Michigan right now for two reasons: to be close to her in the days and weeks to come and also, I’m missing the best season. The season where you can witness miracles, whether you are a birder, a botanist, a biologist, even a goofy and/or serious Lutheran. You can see these miracles unfold overnight and your heart leaps about with Spring fever as you hum, “Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome, please don’t take my Kodachrome awaaay!” There’s a reason all these days of magic and bloom and resurrection and rebirth are crammed into Springtime, you know. It’s the Leap of Faith season, when it’s easier to take that one giant step. Mother, may I? Yes, you may!
No pictures for you today, despite the beautiful things I’ve seen. There are lots of little miracles pictured about the blog neighborhood right now; the place is awash with the most amazing images. Laura had a photo of a star magnolia bud that defies description, except that she managed to do that as well. Lots of avian friends, both in and out of nests, a blush of pansies, an out of focus bunny come to visit, a bumble bee bum that made me laugh out loud. In April, I will be hosting Good Planets on two Saturdays so my mailbox will be full of beauty in addition to hoodia and junk stock offers. Lucky me. Lucky us. Just Lift Up Your Eyes.

*Here they are. The soft eyes open.
If they have lived in a wood
It is a wood.
If they have lived on plains it is grass rolling
Under their feet forever.

Having no souls, they have come,
Anyway, beyond their knowing.
Their instincts wholly bloom
And they rise.
The soft eyes open.

To match them, the landscape flowers,
Outdoing, desperately
Outdoing what is required:
The richest wood,
The deepest field.

For some of these, it could not be the place
It is, without blood.
These hunt, as they have done,
But with claws and teeth grown perfect,

More deadly than they can believe.
They stalk more silently,
And crouch on the limbs of trees,
And their descent
Upon the bright backs of their prey

May take years
In a sovereign floating of joy.
And those that are hunted
Know this as their life,
Their reward: to walk

Under such trees in full knowledge
Of what is in glory above them,
And to feel no fear,
But acceptance, compliance.
Fulfilling themselves without pain

At the cycle’s center,
They tremble, they walk
Under the tree,
They fall, they are torn,
They rise, they walk again.

19 responses to “Lift Up Your Eyes

  1. Your poor friend–that would be devastating. I’m glad that you are able to see the beauty in the world; do you need a Nikon D80?

  2. I happen to know that a beautiful yogini is sending prayers your way, and your friend’s way.

    Me, I’m still wrestling. I have no trouble imagining Heaven for babies and children and animals. But I resist that final leap of faith, for some reason. I think maybe because I have not yet found a religious paradigm that works for me. I love the big ideas, but I get irritated with human dogma. And yet I can’t seem to simply believe in my own way and ignore the organized religions. In other words, I WANT a spiritual home, but I don’t know where to look for it.

    Spilling my guts in the comments, here. Sorry.

  3. You picked a bird that nearly defies the space time connection, a true shape-shifter and speed maven to try to photograph in flight. They move like bullets. Your photography is always beautiful, and Cooper’s Hawks can only be photographed while they are perched.

    The Buddhists believe that all is illusion, and the death of a child is the saddest illusion of all.

  4. All I know is, e.e. cummings did not write that poem. So it must have been somebody else.

    Please get cracking with the photos, dear heart. We miss them (you, too).

  5. Hoss, it was James Dickey who wrote the poem.

    So sorry for your friend’s loss, and her child’s loss. I am still one of the strugglers, and suspect I will be for life.

  6. Loving the deep thoughts that you share with us . . . tying the beauty of a nest of raptors with the pain of a child’s death with the glory that is or might be Heaven. You, my friend, make me think.

  7. I used to be a person of a little faith, then no faith and finally a lot of faith. I have been all over the proverbial sinful path and also during my life lost several people very close to me who were way too young to die. One passage of Scripture that really speaks to me and a lot of people is: God so loved the world that He gave us His only begotton son so that whoever believed in Him would not perish but have eternal life. Eternal Life! (Heaven) If anyone wants to read a wonderful, inspirational blog, go to It is perfect for Lent.
    Many heartfelt prayers for the family who lost their child, the hardest heartache ever to endure…

  8. And He will raise you up on eagle’s wings,
    Bear you on the breath of dawn,
    Make you to shine like the sun,
    And hold you in the palm of His Hand.
    ~Michael Joncas from Isaiah 40:31

    You and your loved ones are in my heart and prayers, dear friend! Such sweet and hopeful words pour from your broken heart. Thank you!!

  9. Oh, vicki, I have thought of and prayed for this little one ever since you told me about him. In fact, you mentioned him and Ella in the same post sometime back. I pray for comfort for you and your dear friend, those parents, and the little girls who cannot begin to understand.

    Someday it will all be plain. I can only rest in the comfort the God gives, and I pray that they might know that too.

  10. There are no words, Vicki. Or answers. Only our prayers. You and yours are in the thoughts and prayers of me and mine. We love you and are praying.

  11. I don’t know that I like that poem very much; it sounds as if the innocents are always suffering to some greater good.

    Hold your friend close. I can only imagine the terrible pain she is feeling.

    Heaven? I’m not so sure, but there’s gotta be something more.

  12. So sorry for your friend.

    Love the poem, and hope that the fishies will pose well for you in Atlanta.

  13. This is a beautifully written post, Vicki. There have been two of these tradegies in our families – hard to bear and makes you wonder that faith is all about. Best wishes to your friend…

    Would love to see Hannibal’s offspring!

  14. I know I left a comment here yesterday, and I wish I knew why some of them disappear!

    A friend emailed me about the ship’s near disaster and the explosion from the tanker yesterday in St. Pete. I hope it was far away from you and your home, Vicki. Take care.

  15. The simple faith of a child is all we need to find God’s peace. Everything else, all the hard stuff is already done, finished…

    Your friend and her family are in my prayers… the list sadly grows long.

    I have my window open to 50 degree breezes today and as I type this I hear the low mournful cooing of our mourning doves. I wonder if this is the same pair I photographed for you two summers ago, or perhaps their offspring. I think of my little bird feeder an all the beautiful singing and actually am glad that I have no Cooper hawk here. Does his presence cut down on the number of birds showing up at your feeders? It would seem almost a suicide mission to be near this fellow. Do they ever attack the lizards? (We know they attack beautiful soft gray kitties)

  16. So sorry for your friend.
    So glad you shared that poem.

  17. I think Miz S would find a spiritual home in the unitarian church.

    And I kind of hope your beautiful god son gets to grow up in heaven, rather than stay a baby. Wouldn’t that be lovely.

    I took a leap of faith and ended up with a sweet greyhound. (She says in bewilderment).

  18. And I am not a beautiful yogini, but your friends have my prayers, too.

  19. What a lovely post! You blend the majesty of the hawks and the majesty of the baby’s short life perfectly. Thanks.

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