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We haven’t seen a hawk yet in Paris, but we’ve seen pictures.

Just before you die, everything in your character seems to become reduced down to its essence.

In cooking, a reduction means cooking a liquid until some of the water evaporates and the remaining liquid is thicker and has a more intense flavor.

As a boy, he was home-schooled by his mother; they covered eight grades in six years. When he entered a private high school at the age of 12, he was smaller than the other freshmen. He made an astute decision: he would have no enemies in his life. Instead he would make friends.

He changed physically, grew tall and handsome, but that decision formed the core of him. Everyone would be his friend, no one above him, no one below.

His Amherst College roommate had a blind date one night with a girl from Mt. Holyoke, a blonde beauty, with brains, spirit and character.

When the roommate returned, he asked him if he’d mind if he asked her out on a date.

That was fine, the roommate said. He’d only just met her. She didn’t belong to him.



Hawks are the swiftest of birds.

He and the blonde beauty were engaged before long, and the roommate saw that he’d been too slow to recognize what his friend had instantly seen.

They married in Massachusetts in 1943.

Few Americans doubted then that fighting the Axis was a just cause. He joined the Navy and was soon commanding a sub chaser in the Pacific.

English, Irish, Welsh and French by ancestry, he was born and bred in New England.

After the war was over, he and his bride settled in Massachusetts.

They wanted a family, and one, two, three years later, they had three babies.

They were focused in life, and focused in work. He found a job in a pre-fabricated housing company, doing what he loved to do from the time he was five years old: building something.

No one is lucky all the time, even a man who is strong, focused and kind.

The company went bankrupt.

But he’d married a fearless woman.



Let’s go west, she said.

They drove across the continent in a Ford sedan, looking for job opportunities in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

They sat on the beach in Santa Monica, looked at each other and said, All the doors were open in Arizona.

They moved their young family to a small house in Phoenix, bought with a GI loan.

He worked for other contractors.

She sewed curtains for their house, clothes for her children and tiny clothes for the two girls’ dolls.

Then, with the right partner, he started his own construction company.

She helped him as the company secretary.

Do it right the first time, was their motto.



Get to the goal swiftly, like a hawk.

Vision and passion, strength and focus—these are qualities one needs to find the right livelihood, choose the right mate.

But what if at the core your intention was to be a friend to everyone?

Wouldn’t you then approach the business of constructing buildings and houses in an open and generous manner?

Wouldn’t you offer jobs to those whom others tried to exclude?

This he did, being among the first to hire Native Americans, blacks and Latinos in Phoenix.  

Wouldn’t you offer employees the chance to buy shares in your company long before it was common practice, simply because, if your profits were increasing because of their good work, their profits should increase, too?



And if you were married to a woman who was not just smart, but had X-ray insight (the first time she saw Richard Nixon’s face on TV, she said, “He’s a crook”)—wouldn’t you listen to her, really listen, when she argued against the Vietnam War?

Wouldn’t you, a Republican businessman in a Republican state, have to re-think your convictions?

Wouldn’t you even have to admit that the Democratic Party was a better friend to everyone than the Republican, and change parties, even though almost every business associate and friend you had was Republican?

And when you and your wife, who now had five children, traveled through China in the ‘70s, and you saw how humane the Chinese practice of providing on-site childcare at work was, on returning home, wouldn’t you offer it to your employees?

And wouldn’t you laugh good-naturedly when you showed people slides of your China trips, and they called you and your wife “Commie pinkos?”

Was there anything that could obstruct or discourage your friendly approach to the world?

I never saw it.

Not when your powers failed you one by one.

Not when you could no longer work.

Not when you had to give up driving, mobility in the world.

Not when your memory started to go.

Not when it was mostly gone.

That sweet core of goodness, the kind treatment of others—that was there till you took your last breath.



You looked so much like a hawk, the slight curve of your nose, like the beak of the peregrine falcon on your family’s ancient coat of arms.

The morning after eleven of us gathered around your bed to say goodbye, all of us loving you deeply, a large hawk appeared outside your home, perched on a palo verde, looking fiercely in at the place where you and she used to sit and eat breakfast.

He looked in at your blonde beauty and your two youngest daughters.

He swiveled his handsome head to look at your two oldest daughters in the guest room.

He looked south towards the place where your son lived.

And then he flew away.

Mother had never seen a hawk so close to your home before.

She guessed that it was a Swainson’s.

I called Richard in Playa del Rey. As I told him about your beautiful death, a hawk circled the courtyard of our home. This was the first time he’d seen a hawk anywhere close to our house.

Later, you circled overhead when we walked by the sea.

Here in Paris we haven’t seen you soaring yet. But we are looking.





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Reader Comments (30)

What an amazing tribute to a father. Thank you Kaaren.

Saturday, June 18, 2011 at 19:51 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine T

Kaaren - several weeks ago your post “How to Live: A Vision Quest, Part Two” moved me deeply and I’ve been sitting with the questions around the invisible forces inside me since then. The Hawk post today is also deeply moving. I’m thankful to hear your remembrance, and thankful for what it brings to mind for me regarding my own father and my own mother who were both remarkable people. I’m simultaneously so much like my parents and so very different, and the understanding of those differences in my own inner life and the lives of my parents has been a blessing and a confusion since I was a kid. Your two postings are inspirational for me in every way and in some way for me connected and I am grateful. Grateful too for Richard’s pictures - I have to say sometimes I log on just to scroll through the photos seeking a view to open my day.

I will keep my eyes open for Hawk, and suggest a flight to the continent when I see him. I’m sure he has been righteously busy, but a visit is long overdue.

Saturday, June 18, 2011 at 22:05 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Organ

What a lovely tribute to your father, Kaaren. I still think of you and how much you love your father every time I see a hawk. I think that "Hawks are the swiftest of birds" might be one of the most perfect breaks between paragraphs I've ever seen. What an inspiration your father is (and so is the love story of your family). xo

Sunday, June 19, 2011 at 7:06 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer Genest

Kaaren, an incredibly moving piece. i thank you for sharing that. you know, i mostly just skim articles and posts these days. too much to read, so little time. but i read every word of your tribute. not needing to know who it was necessarily, but to be part of the discovery. it was a pleasure and even more so when you revealed it was your father. i am sure the hawk follows you everywhere. may you see it soon in Paris. JT Rose

Sunday, June 19, 2011 at 9:39 | Unregistered CommenterJT

Dear Catherine,

Thank you so much. And we, in turn, thank you for all the work you do protecting those very hawks we last saw in Playa del Rey.

We think the hawk who circled our courtyard the day after my father died, is the same hawk who returned the next year with a mate. They used to do aerial acrobatics outside our windows, and Richard captured that dance from the balcony of our house. The original hawk we named Sam, so when his mate appeared, her name could only be Betty.

Friends of Ballona Wetlands are the very best friends Sam and Betty the Red-tailed hawks could have.

Wave at them for us!

Kaaren (& Richard)

Sunday, June 19, 2011 at 12:34 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren (& Richard)

Dear Michael,

This is so moving to me! I think you have a similar temperament to my father's: a kind, helpful, gracious sort of male energy, what used to be called "a gentleman" or a gentle man, as opposed to a cave man, or savage.

You might have put your finger on why some of us, in spite of remarkable parents, grow up confused about who we are: I think it's often the case for those of us who are different "types" than our parents. The only useful language I've ever found for these differences is that of C. G. Jung, in his work on typology. If your parents are sensory-thinking or thinking-sensory types (rational and practical), and you are by nature an intuitive-feeling type (which many artists are), you recognize their gifts but aren't as clear about your own, since they're of another nature than the models you grew up with. Action and efficiency tend not to be the strong suits of artists. It takes us awhile to realize our job is to explore the inner world, to express depth, and that slows one down in efficient action. So the inner work you are doing now is what you, as a musician and artist, were born to do, and your music and art are vehicles to express that invisible world.

We are very happy that you're taking a message to Hawk! We're hoping to see him here in Paris soon.

Richard thanks you for your appreciation of his photos.

Much love,

Kaaren (& Richard)

Sunday, June 19, 2011 at 12:54 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren (& Richard)

Dear Jennifer,

Thank you so much! I know you've heard this story before, but it never ceases to amaze me how the spirit of someone you love goes on long after that person's death, so that in a certain sense, death does not exist. And I would never have guessed how my father would make his presence known to us, in what form he would appear.

I just love that you appreciate that line break. Nothing like a reader who's a writer!

You're right: my father still inspires us, everyone in his family, and just about everyone who knew him well.


Kaaren (& Richard)

Sunday, June 19, 2011 at 13:05 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren

Dear Jeannette,

Whenever I say your name, I think of my father's mother, Jeanette, whose temperament was most like my father's. Absolutely non-judgmental. Years ago in the Bay area, I had a boyfriend who was a painter, and dsylexic. He was brilliant and gifted, but slaughtered the King's English. My grandmother, who was a Smith College graduate when many women did not go to college, who read widely and deeply, who was friends with many of the writers and intellectuals of her time, didn't judge him for sounding uneducated. She welcomed him whenever we visited her in San Francisco. She taught my father how to be truly democratic. (Both my father's parents were Democrats, so it was not so hard for him to shift parties later in his life back to the perspective in which he'd been raised.)

Thank you so much for reading this and letting us know you enjoyed it. You know where I think we are most likely to spot our first hawk in Paris? On the Seine on your boat! Wouldn't that be something?

Much love and see you soon!

Kaaren (& Richard)

Sunday, June 19, 2011 at 13:22 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren

Dear Kaaren,

Thank you for telling that history of your father's heart.


Sunday, June 19, 2011 at 14:22 | Unregistered CommenterBruce Moody


As I read this, each preceding word had me hungering for the words that would follow. Your style had me so intrigued to follow this story. And the visuals of the hawks are breathtaking. My mystical great-grandmother, Marguerite, taught me by example to appreciate nature, particularly birds. For the last five years I've been living in a place with views of a slough, where over 250 species of birds come to visit.

This story honoring your Father has particular meaning for me. After my Dad passed I became familiar with the peregrine falcon, which began accompanying me on my hikes at Cabrillo State Monument, at the end of the peninsula where I live. During these walks, my Dad "communicated" to me information that helped me understand some of his choices, which made so much sense, and clarified how motivated he was by love, gratitude and generous service. On one of the walks the peregrine circled overhead 7 times. I stood still and counted. It's been some time since I'd seen the hawk.

Then this week I was led to take a walk right outside my door to the park a few blocks away and there it was, a majestic peregrine on the school fence. I stopped in my tracks. It sat still turned its head toward me and we calmly gazed at one another as if to feel one another's presence.

I'd forgotten about this falcon encounter until I read your story. What a sweet Papa you have. I say have because I am so comforted to feel my Dad's love, presence, and support more than ever. This deepened relationship with him feels like part of the compelling force that's given me the comfortable confidence to be on stage as a comedian. He had a great, harmless, playful sense of humor and always encouraged the Baca girls to creatively express.

I wonder if the peregrine is a totem that symbolizes the healthy masculine. That's certainly what I feel from it.

Thank you both for your depth, aliveness, and sharing in honoring Dad.


Sunday, June 19, 2011 at 14:41 | Unregistered CommenterMarguerite Baca

Kaaren and Richard,

I read this with such yearning. Absolutely beautiful. Thank you. The close-up photo of the hawk's eyes mesmerized me. I remember when this happened, and you have re-captured it with such fresh relevance.

Sunday, June 19, 2011 at 16:21 | Unregistered CommenterCassandra

This reminds me so much of the day Richard & you held the poetry event at Ballona. I read Mary Thomson's poem, "Living Stillness" and as I came to the lines: "But listen, now a hawk skrees in the distance/And stirs a flock of plovers to the air.." there was a stir in the audience and there above us was a hawk circling. I always considered that a tribute to Mary. Here's the poem:

City sounds surround us:
We live with siren, traffic, beeper, boom box,
And the overwhelming thunder of the jets.

But sometimes, at Ballona,
If we hold our breath and listen,
We may hear a piece of elemental silence:
Those small sweet sounds that must be searched for
And are hidden by that heavy covering noise.

But listen, now a hawk screes in the distance
And stirs a flock of plovers to the air.

They turn, and as they pass we hear
The rush of wings above.

Bees bumble over blossoms; a hummingbird
Tweedling on the high top of a willow
Flashes scarlet in the sun.
A lizard scrabbles over logs and vanishes.

The wind sighs through the grasses
Rattling the tall dry weed-stems,
Sparrows twitter and sing, and there -
The liquid song of a meadowlark!

And if we listen closely,
Beyond the buzzing dune and saltmarsh,
We hear the long slow heartbeat of the sea.

Sunday, June 19, 2011 at 23:59 | Unregistered CommenterRuth Lansford

Dear Kaaren and Richard,

What a loving and beautiful testament! (Richard, the photos are utterly stunning! Seriously, these could be in National Geographic.)

It takes a brave and insightful man to remain true to his values, especially when he lives in a community that does not share those same humane values. Kaaren, you have so beautifully conveyed your father's strength, courage, conviction and warm compassionate heart. He not only held his beliefs, it's clear that he *lived* them. What an example for us all!

And, yes, where the natural world and the spirit world meet, we are blessed with messengers, if we are open and attentive.

Thanks to you both for this very moving journal.

Much love!

Monday, June 20, 2011 at 0:08 | Unregistered Commenterdawna

I agree with the comment that the qualities you loved in your father are in you, Kaaren.

I seem to have dropped off the notice of new Paris Play entries via my e-mail. Since I don't want to miss any of them, is there a way I can get back on the notice by email list?

Monday, June 20, 2011 at 3:51 | Unregistered CommenterTristine

Love, love, love this piece and so appropriate the week of their anniversary. Thank you, Kaaren and Richard, for the beauty of your words and photos.



Monday, June 20, 2011 at 16:23 | Unregistered CommenterSister Ann

First of all, I know that some people do compliment Richard on his photography, but he really is an accomplished artist. In this age of the ubiquitous digital cameras on cell phones, electronic tablets and such, it seems that everyone is a "photographer." and Flickr and other similar sites are awash with bad-to-average snap shots (and good stuff, too!). Richard has a trained eye to, first of all, be able to SEE the shot before he shoots, and then frame the shot in his own wonderful way. My hat's off to you, Richard.

Years ago I read a wonderful book called "The Rites of Autumn: A Falconer's Journey Across the American West," in which a man rescued a baby peregrine falcon that had fallen from its nest. But since he had handled the bird, it would never be accepted by its parents and be taught how to fly and hunt, so the man raised the bird and, during a methodical journey from Montana to the Gulf of Mexico, gave the bird the opportunity to learn for itself the necessary skills to survive. Kaaren's "swiftest of birds" line reminded me of when the man would release the bird in, say, New Mexico, to fly very high up, and then he would release a chicken from a cage in his pickup truck. The falcon could see the chicken from his lofty height and would do a vertical dive straight for the bird. At the last minute, the falcon leveled-out as he hit the bird in an explosion of feathers, just a foot off the ground. This exercise was performed time and again until perfected, on their way to the Gulf where the falcon was to be released. And then....

Monday, June 20, 2011 at 17:19 | Unregistered CommenterStuart Balcomb

Well, er...uh, shucks, Stuart. I'm beet red and doing my best Jimmy Stewart here, in the face of such praise.

Thank you. I guess you haven't been to my Flickr page and seen the mediocre stuff.

What a beautiful tale of the falconer and the peregrine. Kaaren and I both loved it.

Monday, June 20, 2011 at 22:06 | Unregistered CommenterRichard (and Kaaren)

Dear Bruce,

That's exactly what it is: a history of my father's heart. What a felicitous phrase.

Thank you,


Monday, June 20, 2011 at 22:41 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren (& Richard)

Dear Marguerite,

I love hearing about your connection to peregrine falcons, the continuing presence of your father and the support you still feel coming from him. If you’ve ever had this kind of experience, you’ve felt the reality of the spirit world.

It sounds like your father had an approach to life a lot like mine.

I really love your notion that the peregrine might be a totem of the healthy masculine. That is how I think of my father, the embodiment of the best of masculinity—its force, as well as its gentle side. I didn’t write much about his powerful achievements in this post; I’m more intrigued by those men who manage to integrate emotional beauty with their accomplishments in the world of work.

Lucky you, with a view of 250 birds. We can see doves and pigeons, swifts and sparrows from our windows here in Paris. But 250? Fantastic.

Thank you, Marguerite, for your blessing, and send us news of the birds in California!


Kaaren (and Richard)

Monday, June 20, 2011 at 22:47 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren (& Richard)

Oh dear Cassandra,

I know what you mean by yearning. Having a father like Sam Kitchell was and is a huge blessing, and I don't take it for granted. I have many friends who suffered greatly from abusive or absent fathers. Fathers are so important. PARENTS are so important. They're like the pillars of our being. If we don't have strong, positive pillars in place, we have to rebuild them slowly cell by cell within. (Or that's how it seems to me.)

It helped me to know you during the time after my father's death.

And now I look at that close up Richard took of a hawk's eye with YOUR eyes.

Thank you, dear friend,

Kaaren (& Richard)

Monday, June 20, 2011 at 22:57 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren (& Richard)

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