In addition to several new members this winter, our church was chosen by a pair of red-tailed hawks. They were spotted mating in a tree just outside my office. Last week when Judy Constable’s family was gathered in the memorial garden to inter her ashes, one of the hawks sat in a tree beside the site the family had selected and he or she let us know that we were now in hawk territory.
They built a nest about 30 feet up in a tree next to the stairs to the memorial garden, getting ready for breeding season, which we’re told is from mid-March to mid-April in our climate. They are monogamous. In four or five weeks we’ll be hearing the hatchlings.
Two weeks ago an eagle was seen by several of the men who were at the Thursday morning meeting of the Y’s Men in the sanctuary. I was told it was a female. We’re reminded that this was their territory before it was ours.
I have a vivid memory of walking alone near the men’s group campsite in Yellowstone carrying my binoculars when I saw an eagle in the distance flying toward me and I got a wonderful view as he got closer and realized it was a golden eagle—the bright gold feathers glistened in the early-morning sun, so I knew it was a golden eagle.
In those special moments when the ordinary is magnified, the outer world of Nature and the inner world of the human spirit merge into a marvelous One-ness, and in that moment we sense our connection to Life, or to God, if you will. It’s not a Biblical deity that stands over, above and beyond who we are – not a judging God who demands to be worshipped – but the conscious connection to Nature that we’re capable of experiencing for ourselves – a consciousness that helps us to feel at home in the world and at home in ourselves.
For me, that’s what Easter is about. Easter gets its name from Estre, the pagan goddess of Spring. (The word pagan, Latin paganus, simply referred to the country folk who were not converted during the Christianization of Roman cities – the rural outliers held on to their old gods. In Birches, Robert Frost referred to ‘some boy too far from town to learn baseball, whose only play was what he could find himself, summer or winter, and could play alone.’)
Easter is preceded by forty days of lent – like the forty days of rain leading to the flood, or the forty days of Moses alone in the wilderness, or the forty days of Jesus alone in the desert, or the forty days that Buddha sat alone under the Bo tree, or the forty days that Mohammed sat alone in the cave. You have to be ready for a spiritual awakening.
The Christian Holy week includes Maundy Thursday, commemorating the Last Supper – the name comes from the Latin, mandatum, a mandate, or rule. The story says that Jesus gave his disciples a new commandment: “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you,” by which he explained to the Apostles the significance of his action of washing their feet. I hope all is well with you, and hope to see you on Easter Sunday, when we’ll look outside for hawks and eagle, and we’ll look inside for the source of a spirituality that nourishes the soul. Take good care. Yours,