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Friday, March 27, 2009

Wild Air

Sometimes, when strange things happen, they are just strange things that happen sometimes. Other times, there is some significance that needs to be discerned.

I visited my therapist the other day, as I always do, twice a month - as we always joke - whether I need it or not.

This had been a particularly intense visit. Lots of truths told. Things I had been afraid to say out loud to another person. There's something happening in my soul. Something moving and shifting 'round. A 'disturbance in The Force', as it were.

But, it's not just me. It's happening to lots of folk I know.

When my appointment was done, I came out the side walkway to the parking lot to fetch my car. It was a drizzly, overcast day, and I was entertaining myself with the sound of my shoes 'crunch-crunching' on the gravel driveway, musing about how it sounded like boots on snow and thanking God for the cold Spring rain instead of snow.

That's when I heard it. A ruffle of feathers and clacking of branches overhead. I looked up and there s/he was - a magnificent hawk.

I heard myself gasp as s/he stopped on a branch just above my car and peered at me intently. We were both sort of frozen in place - both startled at the sight of each other. Both intensely curious about the other.

Once my composure returned, I remembered that I had my camera in my purse. I carefully rummaged around for it, taking it out to get the snap above.

When I got home later that day, I looked up the Native American folklore about the hawk. This is what it said, in part:

"Hawk is akin to Mercury, the messenger of the gods. Hawk teaches you to be observant, to look at your surroundings. Observe the obvious in everything that you do. Life is sending you signals."

"If a hawk appears to you, then right now a clue about the magic of life is being brought to you. This magic can imbue you with the power to overcome a currently stressful or difficult situation. This test is your ability to observe the nuances of power lurking nearby."

"You are only as powerful as your ability to perceive, receive and use your abilities. . .What is called for here is an intuitive ability to discern the message carried within the cry of the Hawk. The shrillness of Hawk's call pierces the state of unawareness, and asks you to seek the truth."

Or, it could simply be coincidence. The Hawk was simply flying from one area to another, looking for lunch. I just happened to be coming out of my therapist's office at that time. The Native American Folklore is not science. It's simply folklore.

Except, I don't believe in coincidence.

I don't think it's a coincidence that there is a media frenzy over Michele Obama's arms and, at the same time, an increase in mico-sexism that I and many of my sisters are feeling. I experienced it just this week on two separate occasions of blatant sexism from people in my church - people who should know better.

Just this week, one of my dear friends and colleagues came into my office, closed the door, slumped in my chair, raised her hands over her head in a distress signal and said, "Help! I'm drowning in patriarchy."

I don't think that this is not connected to the fact that there is a Black man in the White House and suddenly, there is a Black Man on TV, assuring us that in times of trouble or disaster, "You're in good hands with Allstate."

Or, that in a commercial for FIOS there is a Black man who comes to the door of his modern home to get the best deal from two White white men who are Cable Guys.

That those 'good hands' are Black hands would be nothing short of astonishing to my parent's generation. Neither is it insignificant that one White Cable Guy is clearly scamming and one is not and the Black man is able to tell the difference between them and get the best deal.

And, none of this is at all pleasing so some folk who silently steam about the shifting racial and gender paradigms of power and authority. People who subconsciously or unconsciously allow words or acts of sexism to invade reality.

I'm thinking there's a connection between all this shifting paradigm of male power and the increase in sexism I'm noticing. Over and over and over again, women are reporting being passed over for appointments to positions or promotions, or even praise.

There is something in the air. "WILD air, world-mothering air /Nestling me everywhere," as Gerard Manley Hopkins once wrote of The Blessed Virgin.

It falls to the wise - the Hawk - to pay attention. To beware so that we might be aware.

These days require a keen eye and a bold heart.

Hopkins ends his poem about Mary with these words:

Be thou then, O thou dear
Mother, my atmosphere;
My happier world, wherein
To wend and meet no sin;
Above me, round me lie
Fronting my froward eye
With sweet and scarless sky;
Stir in my ears, speak there
Of God’s love, O live air,
Of patience, penance, prayer:
World-mothering air, air wild,
Wound with thee, in thee isled,
Fold home, fast fold thy child.

My mantra for the rest of Lent and Holy Week, which fast approaches, is this:

"You are only as powerful as your ability to perceive, receive and use your abilities."

"And Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart."

I just got notice that the Committee on Church Structure has submitted a resolution to eliminate the Committee on the Status of Women, saying that it is a committee with “a particular purpose for a particular time” and that the “policy issues relating to women in the world will fit more clearly” within other commissions.

You can read the latest report from the CSW here.

Kim Robey, Program Officer for Women's Ministries and Leadership at the National Church Center ("815") writes:

"At a time in the world under our new administration when we are finally waking up to the disparity between women and men, in all areas of social justice and pure numbers on decision making bodies as shown by the President creating several new bodies solely devoted to women’s issues, this is NOT the time to be eliminating this important committee. Also, at a time within the church where we see women Bishops retiring and not being replaced, this is NOT the time to be eliminating this committee. When the rest of the provinces within the Anglican Communion are desperately trying to establish women’s desks and women’s work in their church structures, this is NOT the time to be eliminating ours."

Wild air is everywhere.


EYouthWNY said...

We also need to take care to remember that sometimes we just don't notice what's going on around us. And that means things may slip by us.

Your mention of "...that there is a Black man in the White House and suddenly, there is a Black Man on TV, assuring us that in times of trouble or disaster, "You're in good hands with Allstate." grabbed my attention. It struck me that the was no coincidence of the sort you thought but I wasn't sure. So I did a little digging.

Dennis Haysbert started doing those spots in 2004. USA Today did a story on it in August of that year.

Am I denying that the patriarchy needs to unclench its grim grip on power? Not at all, I agree with you completely. I'm just saying that we need to make sure that our vision is clear.

Here's the article link:

DeanB said...

There are more hawks around than most people usually see. You are correct that it wasn't a coincidence that you saw that one; your awareness of your surroundings was up a notch from usual.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, DaYouthGuy. I do remember it from a few years ago, and then it went away for awhile. I don't think it's coincidence that it has resurfaced.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

DeanB - There was no avoiding this one. Even a blind person would have heard the noise this one was making.

Katie Schwartz said...

That poem was so gorgeous, TS (telling secrets), I really loved it.

What I adored the most about this post, my dear, is that I wasn't aware of the shift. There is something in the air, no doubt about it. You made some hard hitting excellent points. Better to be awake and aware than asleep.

Thank you for sharing.

You're such a beautiful writer.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Katie. We all need to be more aware and to be more in touch with our own intuition.

it's margaret said...

Okay, now my hair is standing on end. There has been a shift, but I am not sure it is a "bad" one--just that there is dynamic change.... and folks are re-acting in fear.

(There has been an eagle perching on top of the cross on the tippy-top of our church steeple.... and I thought it was just for the squirrels and pigeons! Does your folklore book say anything about eagles?)

IT said...

Huh. I too have felt on edge a lot lately, and haven't considered the backlash effect you mention as a woman, but certainly as a gay person. But I think you are right; the old forces of white patriarchy are uneasy, and hitting back against the women, and of course, that old standby, the queers, gives them some relief as we lurch on into the dusk.

Tired of it. And of them.

IT said...

PS; we see hawks here all the time, mostly big soaring red-tails over the canyons with that "Screeeee!" sound that HOllywood uses on film for eagles (it's not, it's a red tailed buteo).

But occasionally one of the smaller hawks, a red-shouldered, maybe, or a Cooper's Hawk, will settle into a tree where we can see her in all her fierceness, and it's hard not to hold your breath at this visitor from the realm of sky.


Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Eagles. Ah, now my Native American friends would say that your church is getting 'big medicine'.

Eagle is thought to have the power of the Great Spirit, through a connection to the Divine. The Eagle has the ability to live in the realm of the Spirit and yet stay connected and balanced within the real of the earth.

The symbol for the Incarnation in St. John's gospel has always been the Eagle for this very reason. (St. Luke is the Lamb of God; St. Mark is the Divine Messenger (Angel) of God; St. Matthew is the Lion (Truth) of God).

Eagle feathers have always been considered the most sacred healing tool by the First People.

One last note: the presence of the Eagle is a reminder to take heart and gather your courage for the universe will soon be presenting you with an opportunity to soar above the mundane. You are being challenged to broaden your sense of self beyond what is seen at the horizon.

Well, that's what my wee book says, anyway.

Malinda said...

Thank you for the interpretation of the eagle - I'm just about jumping out of my skin, first and practically because I have to teach from John on Sunday but more importantly because it's my church where the eagle seems to have landed. Yes!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Ah, so Malinda and it's Margaret are connected, yes?

Malinda said...

Yes, happily in ministry - she is who put me on to your blog when your NOOMA lenten program was getting started - btw, how is that going?

it's margaret said...

Yes Elizabeth, I am blessed to partner in ministry with Malinda! She is wonderful, creative and GREAT.

Thanks for the notes on the Eagle. Very inspiring--and challenging.

Actually, at Lakota ceremony I was given an owl feather, a complicated gift... meant as a compliment and empowerment to use certain gifts they saw in me.... So, the eagle is a welcome relief!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I LOVE NOOMA. We did "Flame" two weeks ago and "Breathe" last week - both were followed by GREAT discussions. Just haven't had time to blog on them. Shekinah has been pulling me in other directions.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Lucky both of you. Hmmm ... OWL. Still got my book out. Let me reach for it. Owl medicine is associated with clairvoyance and magic. Owls are night hunters. An Owl feather is silent. You can not hear Owl when it flies. Owl is a symbol for wisdom because Owl can see that which others cannot. Where others are deceived, Owl sees and knows what is there.

I suspect what the Lakota saw in you was someone who can not be deceived. They didn't want you to take your insights and abilities for granted. It's a gift you have been given and I suspect they wanted to honor it with the gift of the Owl feather.

But then again, we knew that about you, Margaret.

it's margaret said...

I thank you Elizabeth.

Yet, in the Lakota tradition specifically, the Owl is also the one who tells you of death.... and being given the Owl feather meant I had a strong gift/responsibility to help people transition.... which is always something I do with trepidation.

my word thingy is grati --which is always what I feel when I visit you here. Blessings.

EYouthWNY said...

Don't mean to be anal about this...

But yeah, I'll be just that.

Dennis Haysbert has been the consistent spokesman for Allstate straight through. He's been a great success story for the corporation. Sometimes he's front and center in the spot, sometimes he comes in just at the end. But he's been there consistently for at least four years.

(I'm a media commentator in my other life so this is a particular bone in my throat. Thanks for your forebearanc, lol)

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Okay, so here's some 'anal' commin' right backatcha. I admit that I don't watch a lot of commercial TV, but it seems to me that, at least here in the NE Corridor, this commercial is getting LOTS of air time of late. Just my perception. Not necessarily the truth. I jus' calls it the way I sees it.

VTcrone said...

Actor Dennis Haysbert of the Allstate ads played the first black president of the US in seasons' 1-3 on the show "24" which is now up to season 7. His character, David Palmer was assassinated in episode 1 of season 4 after he had decided not to run for a second term. Somewhere along the way, the actor who played Palmer's brother became president for a season. Don't ask me to keep the seasons straight anymore, as they kind of run together by now. (I'm into "24', Elizabeth was a die hard "Soprano's" fan.)Anyway, Dennis Haysbert is still
doing ads for Allstate, which is one of the sponsors of "24." Shouldn't that be a conflict of interest?


Kirkepiscatoid said...

Well, you know I pay a lot of attention to the various native
American interpretations of animals. Hawk and Owl are frequent visitors at my place, and their appearance never seems "random." I doubt Hawk was a random occurrence in your life.

I remember a time at the corner of the local grocery store and the highway, one time, a dove came and sat on my side view mirror while stopped at the traffic light...and just sat and sat and cocked her head and looked at me for like 20 seconds.

It totally freaked me out b/c a couple hours before I had dealt with a fairly messy situation where for some reason I had not lost my temper, although it was a situation where normally I would. Now I know that dove was "rewarding" me!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I have no doubt, Kirke, I have no doubt.

JCF said...

The symbol for the Incarnation in St. John's gospel has always been the Eagle for this very reason. (St. Luke is the Lamb of God; St. Mark is the Divine Messenger (Angel) of God; St. Matthew is the Lion (Truth) of God).

(Since we're being anal! ;-p)

In the the symbolism I'm familiar with St. John is the Eagle, St. Matthew is the Man/Angel, St. Mark is the Lion, and St. Luke is the Ox. [I'm sure Wiki can explain why ;-/]


I always catch my breath, when I see a hawk, also (Heck, I even enjoy seeing a buzzard soaring overhead! :-))


Elizabeth, will GC take up this subject, re Committee on the Status of Women?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

When you're right, you're right JCF. I had Matthew and Mark mixed up, but I haven't seen the Ox for Luke. Only the Lamb. Hmmm . . .

Mary Beth said...

So much

I need to know to whom I need to write to PROTEST the elimination on the CSW?