Originally composed and posted as “The cry” on Saturday, February 27, with thanks to Ruth at SOS – Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog for the initial inspiration to “write fast.” Reposted here today as a reminder that revision is also writing…

I heard it again. It stirred me from my luxurious Saturday-drowse. A loud cryyyy cryyy cryyy from the backyard, or very nearby. I threw off the blankets and ran out on the deck, promptly soaking my socks in the day-old rainwater.

I dreamt, once, that I was standing here exactly like this, looking up at the northwestern sky, when an eagle flew by. Bald eagles do live around here. I have seen them on occasion. I’m convinced that an eagle’s (big, sloppy) nest is on the top of a water tower on the highway around the bend. In my dream, I was awed by the eagle and knew it portended something good.

But eagles don’t have the beautiful, poignant cryyy cryyy cryyy I am hearing on this early, pearl-sky morning. All other life seems to be slumbering but for this phantom bird, the lusty rooster across the street, and me. Day is just barely fading in.

It cries again, in the stillness. The air rings with its sharpness, with the curve and edge of it.

It’s a hawk. It has to be. I’ve seen several in recent weeks, since the turn of the year. During an icy spell in January, when I went for a short walk in thin winter sunlight that gilded the bare trees and glittered on the grass, I watched a hawk gliding low overheard, never flapping its wings, staying aloft as if by magic.

Returning to the warmth of the house in my sodden socks, I make coffee and settle at my laptop to search.

Definitely not an eagle. That call is feeble in comparison to the one I just heard. I know hawks’ voices are dubbed for eagles’ in movies.

Not a red-tailed hawk, though. What a hair-raising, harrowing scream.

Then… yes!

A red-shouldered hawk. Fluid, syllabic, downward inflection. Exactly what I heard from somewhere over in the smattering of pines between my neighbor’s house and mine, where I dreamed the eagle flew. I’d rather hear this cry even if I cannot see the hawk. The sound scrapes against my heart. 

It has something to do with the aching aliveness of things, despite the hawk being a predator. If I want to focus on symbolism, there’s a lot: intuition, spirituality, power…

But now, now, as the rooster picks back up with his daylong rusty-bugle solo (that’s one vigorous creature!), there’s a familiar cheep cheep warble at the front door, so happy and so loud that it seems almost to be in my house.

The finches! They made their annual nest in my door wreath last spring but didn’t lay eggs as in previous years, when I held my granddaughter up to see the nestlings. For some reason, they disappeared. And left me bereft. One more little layer of heartache in a deeply heartrending year. When I took the wreath down in the fall, I mourned over the perfect, unused nest.

I saved it. I couldn’t toss such artistry away.

I put my spring wreath up early. Like, at the end of January.

When I went to look for the chattering finches just now, I couldn’t see them any more than I could see that hawk this morning; I believe the little birds were sitting in the wreath, voicing (to me) their delight. 

There’s likely to be babies at my door by Easter.

And, I hope, somewhere high in the lonesome pines.

Red-shouldered hawk. Don Miller. CC B


The annual Slice of Life Story Challenge with Two Writing Teachers is underway, meaning that I am posting every day in the month of March. This marks my fifth consecutive year. I’m experimenting with an abecedarian approach: On Day 3, I am writing around a word beginning with letter c.

28 thoughts on “Cry

  1. Your words, your writing, creates such an amazing place for me to enter as a reader…I even think my socks are a bit damp. Truly, you have a gift with details, selecting the ones that stream together, seamlessly, it seems, to create a story that goes beyond what is on the page (or screen, as the case may be). Thank you for a beautiful start to my morning.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed your piece. The exact language helped me to see your woods, the finches and the pines. I can hear specific sounds and I add in more from my experiences. I feel the cold and dampness. You’re motivating me to get out of bed when I hear the night noises. I’m missing out on something.

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  3. The missing finches scraped my heart as much as the cry. I really loved the cheep cheep warble. We were missing our hawk last spring, and as a result our street seemed to teem with chipmunks. He finally returned in the summer and the balance of power seemed to be restored.
    My only correction t this is that I’m pretty sure C is for Cookie. I learned it on Sesame Street.

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    • The finches are utterly precious and cheerful. One nest in previous years was laced with long grasses bearing tiny blooms – a decorator finch. You are so right: C is for Cookie! I have no hope of living up to dear Cookie Monster’s passion for that word, alas. He outdoes us all.

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  4. Have you noticed your bird theme lately? Bluebirds, now eagles, hawks, and finches. An unspoken need to spread your wings, perhaps. Possibly a response to the closed in feeling of Winter and Pandemic hunkering down, that which feels cozy at first but then suffocating as the promise of Spring makes us look skyward for a sunny blue expanse. We share red-shouldered hawks here in central Texas, too; I’ve been lucky to photograph one just yards away in my neighbor’s tree. They are spectacular!

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  5. Revising and rewriting IS writing! Thank you for reminding me that.
    I never noticed how many hawks live near me until I went on a field trip to Mound City, Iowa for their Eagle Days presentations. They are so beautiful! How could I have missed them?

    I love the descriptive word choices throughout this slice.

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  6. I’m starting to think that birds of all types must be your muse(s). Your posts about them keep getting right into the heart of living and deeply moving me. This line, in particular, caught me today: “the aching aliveness of things”. Yes. Thus the predator, the more innocent finches, the babies missed and the babies to come. Thus our heart breaks open over and over because of the cry of the world.

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  7. I had to go back to The Cry and see how you were able to take a post I loved and twist a work here and there to make it even better. You are a master at pulling all senses in weaving words into images.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Elsie, you can’t know how happy it makes me that you went back to compare! Honestly – it makes my day! I didn’t change much. I love the tinkering and polishing process, seeing where I can find spots to tighten or lines that could sparkle more. Plus, I am fond of this new piece and felt I might as well use “Cry” for C! Thank you for this.


  8. You know, I read your original piece, and I read this one. I don’t know exactly what you revised and changed. And maybe it’s simply because I’m reading this the second time around, but there were definitely words and phrases that came into sharper focus today. “Fluid, syllabic, downward inflection.” Those WORDS scrape against my heart. So much contained there. The layer of heartache. The artistry of the nest. Words to go swimming in. THANK you.

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    • I debated about republishing, but as the post was as still “drying,” I thought, why not? First time I’ve ever done so…maybe I just wanted to hear the cry again (and, well, it IS a C-word). Yes, heartache is in it, somehow, somewhere in the wildness. Thank you for indulging twice. I changed only a little – adding how the hawk’s iconic voice is dubbed for the eagle’s. Felt important to add. Usually I need to delete! Thank you, Lainie.


  9. I always learn something new about nature in your writing. Your words truly ignite all the senses. I love these lines: ” I’d rather hear this cry even if I cannot see the hawk. The sound scrapes against my heart.” Thank you for writing and sharing, Fran.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Cindy! I am learning something new about nature every day; it always seems to be as poignant as it is fascinating and intricate. That cry – just so evocative. So much wild, fierce beauty wrapped in it, along with – somehow – longing.


  10. Fran, I never tire of your beautiful writing. There is such emotion in this line, “The sound scrapes against my heart.” When traveling to Virginia I saw two huge birds flying above the highway. My husband and I have seen them before but I have never seen an eagle or hawk flying in the sky so we did not know what bird it was. This line urges me to say your heart mend: “One more little layer of heartache in a deeply heartrending year.”

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