Sparrow Hawk Soul
I’ve never been a compulsive bird watcher, but I have become quite good at identifying indigenous birds and understanding their habits a little. Many years ago, sitting on the banks of a mountain stream, I watched a Merlin, the UK’s smallest bird of prey, swooped down at high speed to attempt to catch a vole that was feeding at the stream edge. The bird noticed my presence at the very last second and almost crashed. The vole got away.
Over the years I have watched birds of prey both in the wild and in displays by falconers and it’s never failed to astonish me quite how different their strategies for hunting are. The kestrel hovers, staying almost motionless in mid air, watching for movement in the grass below before dropping like a stone to grab its prey(it’s other name, by the way, is The Windhover, also a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins). Buzzards, one of the heavier and larger birds of prey, rely to some degree on carrion and while they can and will kill prey of their own, they prefer to see what they can find. Others like the peregrine falcon and the sparrow hawk pursue their prey at high speed. The peregrine is one of the fastest creatures on earth, clocking mind-blowing speeds.
Now, to casual inspection, and the lazy mind, these birds are all built to much the same design, with ripping claws, a beak like a curved razor blade and wings, but in fact, each is well suited to its means of earning a living. The wings of the sparrow hawk are short and stubby, and are very similar to the shape of many fighter plane wings. These are birds that can manoeuvre with extreme speed; they dodge and dive and their flight often defies the human eye. Compare their shape with that of a sea eagle, which lives by fishing. It flies along the surface of the water and scoops up fish; it’s large and comparatively heavy and while it flies pretty fast, compared with the sparrow hawk, it’ s a snail. A sparrow hawk cannot do what a sea eagle does. A peregrine cannot do the same as a buzzard, and a merlin cannot do what a kestrel can. It’s not in their nature. They are each uniquely adapted to their lifestyle.
I spend a lot of time wishing myself to be someone else, someone who doesn’t suffer endless doubt about who I am and what I do. I soar from mood swing to mood swing, from high to low and back again and never seem to spend long in any sort of semblance of stability. But when we glimpsed a sparrow hawk while out walking a week or two ago, I started to wonder if like the wings of the sparrow hawk, my soul is meant to fly fast and dodge and dive and move like the wind while it works, and that the swinging of moods is actually my soul’s response to the world around me. While I look physically more as though I am built for comfort and not for speed, anyone who has known me for a while has discovered that I walk very fast, talk fast and type fast. My brain(when I am well) moves fast too. I have understood the punchline of a joke long before the person has finished telling it; I guess the ending of a film in the first five minutes.
What I guess I am saying is that in essence, perhaps my issues with depression and anxiety are exacerbated by not accepting that my whole being is not designed for stability. Like the wings of a sparrow hawk, my mind is designed for flexibility and not rigidity, and my soul is not designed to remain in a constant state but rather one that varies according to conditions and needs.
So, be the bird you are and not the one you think you’d prefer. Each has its own beauty and is fitted exactly for the life it leads.
Just don’t put me in a cage.