Just days before the wedding, I had spent a week at Georgia O'Keeffe's Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. The week-long gathering, the 2013 women's writing retreat hosted by A Room of Her Own Foundation (AROHO), was filled with powerful stories, shared by a few dozen of the nearly 100 inspiring women who attended. Janet Fitch, author of Oprah's Book Club novel White Oleander, (featured here holding a watercolor of one of the well-known red bluffs), advised us during her keynote to: "Live like a poet. Walk around like a poet. Slow down, wander around. Be a little bit more amazed at what you see around you.
"You don't have to be the beauty," Janet went on to tell us. "Go out and seek the miraculous and you will catch the beauty."
What tracks do we leave behind?"
As I held the objects up and passed them around for the women to hold, I relived each story - the death of my mare Romie, the old cow who tried to help her crippled old friend rise so she could nurse her newborn calf, the porcupine who danced at dusk beneath the bur oak tree. These stories live inside me, containers that hold both sorrow and joy, most of them from my previous life on our Wyoming ranch. But not all of them. Some of them are stories of a life in transition. And new stories continue to be born.
It was then that I saw, as I sped past, the body of the red tailed hawk lying broken on the edge of the highway. And overhead, circling, crying, the mate - another red tail soaring above, looking down, not understanding why its mate did not answer, did not lift its wings and rise from the pavement, did not fly in tandem to the nest where they had raised their young. I thought of a documentary John and I had watched together a few months earlier about the red tailed hawk, Pale Male, his miraculous fidelity to place (a balcony in New York City), and his utter devotion to one mate after another, how he had outlived all of them.
I pulled over to the side of the road, backed up, and got out of the car. The hawk's body was still warm, the breast feathers fluffed, the feet and claws soft and flexible as I tucked a finger into their grip. Overhead, the mate circled, calling out. I said a small prayer, asking permission to pluck a few feathers. Back inside the car, I cried, and could not stop. All the emotions of the weekend, all the stories within each bone, all the old memories and all the new beginnings - all seemed to be embodied in the story of those two hawks - the broken and bereft one, and the soaring one, still hopeful, still with the wind beneath its wings.
How never-ending are the lessons of Nature. How much I have yet to learn - about fidelity and love, about devotion and apprenticeship. Perhaps for now, though, it is enough to simply come to the wildflowers, like the butterfly or the bee, like Li Po coming to his beloved poems, again and again.
Read more of Li Po in Mountain Home: The Wilderness Poetry of Ancient China. See a few of Page and John's wedding photos on Facebook.