I saw a hawk when I was walking to work this morning. It was in one of those stately oak trees in the park just north of the US Capitol. I have occasionally seen hawks in the neighborhood alleys, but never one at the Capitol. The hawk stood out for two reasons: it was very large, and it was the only living being about. Usually, there are a number of squirrels, pigeons, and maybe crows, sparrows, and common grackles about the park. This morning, it was unearthly quiet; all of the other animals and birds were all in hiding. It was probably a red-tailed hawk. As I stood to watch this special being, a woman walked past me with her head hunched down, her hands shoved in her pockets, her briefcase weighing down her shoulder, and her face preoccupied, a common going to work look. I called out to her, “look, a hawk.” She was startled, maybe even a little upset at first that I had interrupted her thoughts, but then she, too, stopped and watched. When I finally continued on to work, she stayed watching for a while, and she no longer looked preoccupied. At the bottom of the steps of the park, I went past the police, who are there every morning with their cars parked on the sidewalk (blocking the way). The police rarely say hello. One of the cops, who had his dog out of the car, called out a good morning to me today, though. I greeted him back, “good morning, did you see the hawk?” “Yes, I’ve been watching it,” he said. We had a nice chat about the hawk and about his being able to watch the bald eagles at Blue Fields in Virginia, where they do the training for the police dogs.
It would have been easy for me not to see the hawk. I use my morning walk as a time for contemplation, and when I am in the park (leaving aside the Architect of the Capitol vehicles that sometimes intrude), it is a time I can be less careful about traffic and be more inward. But it is also a time to look and to appreciate the opportunity to be outside, whatever the weather and the season. The trees and birds and small animals and plantings and sky look different everyday. While I go inward on my morning walk, I am also always noticing. This is a kind of mindfulness — to be able to be resting with inward attention, but still be open to observing whatever is in view. Is it less mindful to be so drawn inward that the outside disappears? That perhaps depends on whether one has deliberately gone so far inward that the outside ceases to exist for a time, which is a meditation method, or whether one is just so preoccupied with the churning of the mind that one becomes less conscious.