Since I started a recovery process almost three decades ago, I’ve been suspicious of coincidences, which I experience frequently. Even in childhood I always perceived them as something far more than serendipity, some accidental happening unrelated to my life or heart. In recent weeks, months even, I am graced with so-called coincidences with such astonishing regularity that I’m certain they must be divine affirmations.

I’ve called such happenings Godincidences, and of course, I thought myself so very clever. Only when I entered the word into Google did I discover that many before me have used the term. Credited to Louise Eggleston, who first used it in 1992 (which I consider my first year of sobriety – ah, that’s a Godincidence), many Christians prefer the expression’s obvious reference to God and thus an avoidance of fate, chance or luck, which seem not spiritual enough. Urban Dictionary defines godincidence as “a happening exceeding happenstance.” I like that.

Nature provides most of my Godincidences in recent years, and this season they have been in the form of red-tailed hawks. I first noticed one during the winter in my favorite hiking place, and it prompted an immediate association with a particular life circumstance. Soon, a hawk began to perch often on the cross atop the steeple of a beautiful church across from my house. I came to notice it, to watch for it, and even to pray for its appearance as the hawk’s meaning expanded during the escalated challenges of a pandemic and life. I needed (and still need) a soothing for all the losses, hard decisions, and their potentially harder consequences.

Each time I’m yearning, begging, for whatever I need at the moment, which is usually a felt sense of God’s presence, assurance that all will be well, or promise that those I love will be OK, a hawk appears. No longer do they simply affirm me from their post atop the church steeple (for there are two of them now, and sometimes three.) One will fly no more than a dozen feet above my head, usually after drawing my attention with its distinctive cry. These “random” appearances lack any discernible pattern other than my heart’s need. They come at all hours of the day and occasionally in near dark, which is out of the ordinary for hawks.

The instances are so frequent and so specific to my internal state that I started noting them in my phone like an ever-growing grocery list. One afternoon I took my little granddaughter out to play on the trampoline, and as I watched her delighted bouncing, I realized that she is about the age I was when my mother got sick. A hawk soon swooped and lighted on the huge tree at the corner of the house, where he remained, watching, as long as we were outside.

Every morning I part the blinds to look at the steeple, which one sunrise was empty because its normal occupant was flying across the yard to land a few feet beyond the front walk outside the window. Seemingly certain that I was aware of his presence, he moved to a bare branch directly across the street and stayed for almost an hour while I sat on the porch and watched him, until morning responsibilities called me away.

Multiple times during a particularly difficult day – I’m pretty sure every single time I went outside and looked for one – a hawk appeared. Many mornings as I tiptoe across the wet grass to coax the dog out to do his business, my hawk – yes, it is clearly meant for me – flies past or overhead. Once, one moved on before I was ready for it to go, but when I came to sit on the lower patio before the sun crested the house and chased me inside, I caught a flutter in the corner of my eye and the hawk landed on our chimney, bringing tears to my eyes with his insistent visitation.

In the language of spiritual direction, the hawks’ appearances are called “consolations.” The term most often describes a process when one moves more toward God, toward deeper connection with God. That is certainly my current journey: a road deeper into myself and into my God. I also embrace the hawks’ visits in the more usual sense of being consoling – of offering comfort or solace or simply affirming presence.

I can easily distinguish the three who visit most often. The smaller one with more white on her breast is MamaGod, a nurturing, comforting, tender presence; a larger, more majestic one is PapaGod, the protector-warrior; and a third hawk both tough and tender represents someone dear who is especially on my mind. Often the hawks blend into a combination of consolation.

My hawks are powerful (sometimes in their tenderness). They are visionary with their proverbial hawk eyes, and they see things I cannot but desperately dream of. They glide effortlessly with the wind, and they dive with a relentless drive to survive. In response to each characteristic, my spirit rises up and says YES.

A few weeks ago as I worked at my dining-room-table-home-office, a hawk glided at eye level right outside the big picture window that goes across the front of the house. Astonished, I hurried outside and found it fluttering on the pool fence, where it let me fiddle to get out my phone and take several pictures before it rested its wings, settled in, and stayed for almost 20 minutes. A hawk even visits me now at Bethesda Workshops, where I regularly see one circling high above the garden.

Occasionally, though, the hawks are absent, and I realize how much I’ve come to depend on them. I complained to God about that lapse recently as I drove to an appointment, and immediately I saw a hawk high to my left that followed me almost a mile until it disappeared. Oh, yes, MamaGod! You are with me even when I cannot see you.

The morning I went outside early to write this blog, which is a time I normally receive a consoling visit, again there was nary a hawk in sight. Eventually I walked with Kevin, my constant canine companion, to the nearby park, where we sat on a bench a long time as I talked with God about my desires and fears. As we came back down the hill toward home, reflexively I scanned the steeple, but still no hawk. Really, God? I fussed. Could you not send me a hawk as I’m writing about how powerfully they have ministered to me?  About how clearly they remind me of your presence and of those I love? But still nothing.

Until I got to my house, where a beauty was circling above my driveway, waiting to greet me. Consolation.

Your “hawks” are there, too. Watch for them.

Marnie C. Ferree