We went to the park to break sticks. The hawk, too, went to the park, probably to hunt for squirrels, but I like to think it was waiting for us. We didn't know what we were walking into, only that we had to go. Sam was angry, and I was following his lead, not quite accepting my own anger, but I knew it was also there, waiting. We looked for a spot in the park far away enough for the ritual – for the release – but also in the forest. That's when I saw its eyes peering at me from a high distant branch. The hawk was watching us. We had arrived.
I thought it would fly away if we got too close, but we kept climbing up the small hill, nearer and nearer until we were just feet away. The hawk didn't alter its gaze or fly to a different tree.
The ritual began.
Sam found some dead branches, and we started stomping and breaking, thrashing and grunting. His anger fueled mine, and we both let it come flowing forth out of our bodies, into the earth while the hawk watched with steady eyes. We were lost in our own self-importance, grunting like animals; we didn't even realize that the small boys were watching too. They kept walking closer, slightly ahead of their mom, gazing up at us with the same steadiness as the hawk. Finally, they stumbled up the hill towards us.
“Excuse me,” the smallest one said. “What are you doing?”
"Oh, you know, just breaking sticks.”
The boys squinted up at us.
Sam and I looked at each other. We laughed.
I explained to the boys' mother we were making weird animal noises and stomping and shaking branches as therapy.
She seemed to understand.
The boys had already understood.
And the hawk was there still staring, wondering – what took you so long?
Mare Berger is a singer-songwriter, pianist, teacher, writer, improviser, gardener, and activist living in Brooklyn, NY. They have written for Tom Tom Magazine, which features women and nonbinary drummers, and their personal essays have been featured on the Body Is Not An Apology website. In April 2020 Mare released an album, The Moon is Always Full featuring their original lyrics, songs and orchestration. marielberger.com