Thursday, September 29, 2016

Following Your Spirit Animal

The first hole on the North Nine at the Goodwin Park Golf Course in Hartford runs parallel to the driving range, which at that time of the day was totally devoid of ball-strikers.  After I had hit my tee shot and as Mars was preparing to hit hers she noticed some non-golf movement in the practice area and pointed it out to me.  We both stopped and watched a fairly large hawk on the ground, worrying some unidentifiable object.

After completing the initial hole we made a sharp right turn to the second tee where, just as I was about to place my small wooden peg in the ground, I saw the shadow of a large winged object passing overhead.  This time I alerted Mars and we saw the same predator bird flying away from us – seemingly with both a brown feathered tail and a bushy, fur, gray one – the former held motionless for flight stability, the latter waving listlessly in the wind like a 1950s car antenna decoration.

The big bird landed in a tall oak tree immediately behind our target green and disappeared into its thick leaves, which on the second day of autumn had not yet begun to turn color, or to fall.  We never saw either devourer or devouree again, but we did hear what we assumed were little hawk screeches of delight as we chipped and putted. 

Hawks are not an unusual sight at this venue – although I do not believe we had witnessed any similar carnage on these links before.  Squirrels, oddly enough, are less plentiful here.  In fact we have more of them living in our much smaller front yard than we have probably seen all season here.

 Ironically on this day however a pair of the tree rodents interrupted Mar’s fourth hole pre-shot routine by gamboling heedlessly up the fairway to the edge of her tee box – at which point they both stopped with that startled “wtf” look and scampered back to the high grass and trees alongside the fairway.

One animal interruption could be a coincidence, but three is definitely a trend. 

Over the time we have spent vacationing in New Mexico Mars and I have developed an affinity for Native American fetishes – “animal carvings that have been used by the [Pueblo Indians] for over a thousand years. By honoring the animals and acknowledging their special ‘medicine’ (their natural traits), we may summon our own similar attributes.” (

So what messages are to be read from these living on-course omens?  According to “The hawk encourages us to suspend the habit of distraction, and become more aware of the present moment”, – perfect advice for the game of golf which some would say is at least 99.99% mental.  The tree rodent spirit on the other hand reminds us to – “ooh, there’s a squirrel!”  Totally un-hawklike, and definitely not good behavior in the middle of a backswing.

On this occasion Mars and I were both Hawks on the course.  We didn’t play perfectly – but, for whatever reason, we were (in today’s jargon) pretty much in a state of golf mindfulness. 

End of story?   Not quite.

A couple of days later, as I was chauffeuring Mars and me down one of Hartford’s main thoroughfares after Brunch at a restaurant in another of the city’s parks, I spotted two more hawks.

The first sighting was on the grassy area of the park alongside the street and, similar to our initial encounter at the golf course, it was of a large brown bird of prey pecking away at a formerly animate object grasped between its feet.   The second occurred about ¼ mile later and involved a slightly smaller, empty-handed, feathered predator swooping purposefully across the road in front of our car.

My dominant spirit animal quickly took control and I calmly – “ooh, there’s a hawk!”  

Thank God I wasn’t driving a golf ball.

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