There are two hawks in LaBelle.
All this time I thought there was one hawk and there was something the matter with my eyes, but there are two. I should have guessed this from the number of feathers I was finding on my walk: here and there a large pile of soft white down feathers from an unfortunate pigeon, on the sidewalk or in the yard or in a vacant lot. And then I would only see one hawk at a time, flying high overhead or perched on a tree. I thought the disparity in size and coloring was the light and my astigmatism. But just last week, when I was out on my anxiety walk, I saw a big fat hawk with a grayish belly standing in a sycamore tree, and heard him cry. I ran over to the tree to get a closer look, and then a second hawk soared overhead– this one smaller, sleeker looking, with copper bands on the front. Two hawks.
There isn’t a terribly large amount of nature in LaBelle, except for those pigeons. Seeing two beautiful birds of prey on the same outing felt like a sign.
If you were raised in the Charismatic Renewal, you will spend the rest of your life looking for signs. Odd things happen and it’s a sign that the devil was here, or that there’s a “demonic oppression” in your blood line, or that God has chosen you as a victim soul, or that God is going to send you a run of good luck. Once we saw bald eagles on a weekend trip to the lake, and my mother’s “spiritual director” whom I’ve called Sister Angeline sent her a postcard that happened to have a bald eagle on it that week, and we were sure it was a sign. Once, my mother put a statuette of Saint Jude, the patron of hopeless causes, on my brother’s computer desk to show that she considered my brother a hopeless cause. The next day the statue had fallen off and broken in half, and that was a sign too. To this day, my mind automatically searches for signs whenever I go out for a walk.
I have been walking quite a bit lately. Last year I drove out to the rec center to swim laps or to the woods for winter hikes, but our car is still parked in front of my house, immobile. The Lost Girl’s uncle got busy with another project and we didn’t have any money. Now, we have just enough to pay him to replace the brakes when he isn’t busy– maybe this week, maybe next .When he’s in there replacing the brakes, he will see what else made the wiring melt down. If we need something as expensive as a new wiring harness I don’t know what we’ll do. I keep crossing my fingers that it’s just a small problem. Maybe it’s just another loose wire he missed. Maybe the bracket he put in fell out and can be put back for free. I can’t go look at nature or swim in the rec center, so I go for long walks round and round LaBelle, like a tiger pacing her cage. I walk until my legs hurt and I’m exhausted.
Maybe the two majestic new birds are a sign that God is watching over me and everything will get better. Maybe two dangerous birds of prey are a sign that everything is going to go wrong. Maybe it’s just a sign that the pigeon population in LaBelle had gotten so out of hand that we are a delicious buffet for any carnivorous animals flying up from the trees nearer the river.
A week or two ago, on my walk, I saw that the crocuses were up.
They usually hold off until the first of March, but they were up now. We had a cold, miserable January, but such a warm soft February that everything is two weeks early. There are yards dotted with purple and white. The Harbinger-of-Spring is blooming. The spikes of the daffodils came up, and I even saw one bud partially open.
Today, the first day of March, I walked past a vacant lot on a particularly inauspicious block. There used to be a house there, but the house burned or was torn down. It’s next to another derelict with dark broken windows and holes in the roof. I don’t know if people throw their trash there regularly, or if the trash just accumulates in the scrubby crabgrass because of where it sits on the corner of the street. But today, there wasn’t just trash in the vacant lot. There were flowers, of a kind I didn’t recognize. They looked like dandelions but they weren’t; they were smaller, and on a different leaf. The whole brown and gray lot was dotted with butter yellow–an oasis of pleasantness and warmth in a nasty part of a nasty neighborhood I’d do anything to escape.
Again, it felt like a sign. Maybe a sign that better things are coming and I will soon be on the road again. Maybe a sign that nothing will improve and I will have to grow where I am planted. Or, perhaps, it’s only a sign that climate change has come to Appalachia and February will be the new March.
I have been too depressed to take the bus, lately. The bus reminds me of when we didn’t have a car at all, and I felt so horribly trapped. So Michael has been riding the bus downtown to Adrienne’s martial arts school. That was where he met Pete– Peter, the elderly man who paints landscapes on the backs of beer boxes. He is a talented artist, but he never has any money for supplies. Last year when I gave him a ride, he gave me a picture of a beach that I still keep in my living room. This time, he asked Michael for two dollars, and Michael happened to have that in his pocket. Peter gave him a painting of a blue winter mountain range on the back of a Miller High Life carton.
“I did it with just my fingers!” said Peter.
I put the painting in the dining room with his warmer summer composition. Now I have two original pieces by a local artist.
It felt like a sign.
Maybe it’s just a sign that our society is terribly unjust and we ought to be investing in our artists. Maybe Peter is a holy fool and we’ll be blessed with good luck and prosperity for buying his painting. You never know.
Maybe all of life is a sign: at minimum, a sign that I am alive, and life can be worth living, and things can get better. Maybe even a sign that there is a God who loves me, and willed flowers and hawks and artists so that I would have something to enjoy.
Maybe it doesn’t have to be more complicated than that.
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.