Cancelled this year were Eagle Days at Stella, Missouri, where bald eagles spend their winters nesting in trees above Indian Creek. Many times I’ve gone to look through the Conservation Department’s telescopes.
The other day I felt an overwhelming need to see the eagles. I talked myself out of taking the hour-long drive, since I had things to do, and I set out to get milk and bread. On the way to the store, I passed a bank’s video sign, which showed a picture of the bank’s president. Ego-driven, my dark side judged, but then the video sign switched to a picture of a bald eagle.
I took that as a sign that I needed to keep going.
Instead of turning into the store’s parking lot, I headed south. I took the back roads through the army’s former Camp Crowder that’s now home to many things, including Crowder College, down Highway D, and on to Stella. I wended through the tiny town and to the park where in the past telescopes were set up for the annual event.
I was not alone on my quest for the wintering eagles. Four or five cars lined each side of the street, and people stood outside their cars, looking through binoculars at the trees on the far side of a wide meadow. Of course, I had not thought that far ahead, and I strained unsuccessfully to see what they were seeing, then I drove on down where the street curves and meets the county road. As I drove slowly along, I glanced up at the close trees and saw four of the magnificent birds. Four! Four just sitting there looking across the road at the creek.
Of course, I turned around and drove back, but I couldn’t see them from the driver’s side. I turned around, and again I saw them. With a sense of renewal, I made the hour drive to the store and home.
Here’s why I identify with eagles:
Twenty years ago for book club, I read The Loop by Joe Coomer. (It’s the basis for a movie called A Bird of the Air on Amazon Prime.) The main character works for the highway department and at night drives the loop around Ft. Worth, Texas, helping stranded motorists, burying roadkill, picking up tire retreads thrown off by semis. One day as he’s staring out the screen door of his Streamline trailer an 80-year-old parrot lands in front of him. He tries to track down previous owners who taught the parrot to talk.
One thing the parrot repeats is “I’m an eagle.”
The parrot is missing feathers, looks like he’s been in an alley fight, and is the furthest bird from a majestic eagle you can imagine.
I grabbed onto his words.
If an ancient molting parrot can believe he’s an eagle, so can I. In hard times, I say aloud, “I am an eagle,” and I stretch my arms out as if I can take flight.
Through the years, I’ve shared that book with others, and after Jim passed and I was feeling so very low, thinking I couldn’t make one more decision alone, I received a card from a friend a half-continent away who had written simply, “You are an eagle.” Not long after, another friend sent me a little statue of an eagle, wings in the V position, poised to fly. It sits on the windowsill of my office so I see it every day.
But sometimes I need to catch sight of the real thing.