For Sunday Scribblings: #229 Dangerous
About five days ago, just at dusk, when the sun has gone down and shadows begin to creep out to reclaim the land for night’s sake, I was in my room working on some writing on my computer. My oldest daughter, who had been staying over to help with preparations for a family gathering, was in the living room watching television. She went from quiet to almost a distressed yelp, as she called out, “Mom, you gotta come see this, right now Mom, come see this, Now!”
Not wanting to be distracted, I wondered what could possibly be on the tv that would cause that tone of almost distress to ring clear through the two different rooms we occupied. With a sigh, I got up from my chair and made my way into the living room to stand behind her, where she sat on the couch. I was looking over her shoulder at the tv, and seeing only a commercial.
Then realized that she was pointing outside, through the patio windows. I looked and saw a huge bird, on the ground, no more than two feet from where I often sit on a glider type patio chair. I had just about enough time to register the white tail and light head, before the full grown bald eagle began to amble forward for take off. And was gone.
I was stunned. I live on the ground floor and at the back of an apartment complex. My concrete patio is no more than about four feet wide, and a length of grass covered ground reaches about eight feet beyond that to an eight-foot high wooden fence that blocks the view of yet another apartment complex on the other side of it.
My daughter and I stared at one another for a minute, trying to comprehend what we had just seen, then moved in tandem to the patio doors to open them and peer out. The eagle was long gone, from ground and visible sky, almost as though she’d never really been there at all.
My daughter, age 41 and long aware of my fascination for birds of prey, began to eagerly tell me that she’d just been sitting there when she caught movement from outside. Watched the eagle land, and stretch her neck out to peer around at the fence where small trees grow almost embracing it. She said she thought it must have been hunting something it spied while flying overhead. That small patch of ground is habitat to rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks and gophers, while the lean trees are perches for yellow finches, an occasional blue-jay, woodpecker, or cardinal, and on rarer sightings, a hawk or two. It runs the length of a city block and is well-kept by a maintenance crew.
Which means it isn’t a very likely landing pad for a bald eagle, certainly not the size of the one we had just seen. There are larger trees that overhang the fence from the other side, high utility poles that provide lighting during the hours of darkness and supply both electrical and telephone conduits. That also made it a dangerous place for an eagle to set down.
The eagle has long been a symbol of spirit. That quality that goes beyond reason and becomes a motivating factor for we humans in reaching certain goals and maintaining certain aspects of life and relationship. A winning spirit is that seemingly extra ingredient that allows athletes to cross the finish line ahead of the competition, but also compels business people to succeed in a harsh reality that only contains just so many niches for success above a certain level.
A Creative spirit sees possibilities and connections where others might look and know only the same old, same old. There is a healing spirit that extends a helping hand instinctively and many times without thought of the consequences of doing so. And introspective spirit that looks inward for understanding and verification, and the list goes on and on. And the eagle has, or symbolizes all of them.
Here, in the United States, it symbolizes the spirit of freedom that reaches past law and seeks something more than just the norm, a better, wider place for all of its diverse members and citizens. The eagle represents a freedom of thought as well as that of spirit and belief. And it is a fierce looking symbol of all of that, and the freedom to fly, to soar high above the mundane aspects of life.
Eagles inhabit high rocky outcrops, open to all aspects of weather. And when that weather changes, forming into storms, dark clouds, high winds, and rain, the eagle is able to rise above those realities and soar with the storm beneath, untouched by its affects and effects. And the human spirit, when faced with the often ongoing difficulties of life, has the ability to do the same, and often does. Which only means that we often hear about ordinary people, doing extraordinary things.
In 1995, Dean Koontz published a book titled Intensity. In it, he explores the story of one young woman who finds the courage within herself, to confront evil, for the sake of a young girl she doesn’t know, and to win against the odds. On the final page, Koontz has his character realize something perhaps, that unless personally experienced, might not be understood by others.
Scared less of Vess than of this new thing that she had found in herself. This careless risking. And now she knows it is nothing that should have frightened her. It is the purpose for which we exist. This careless risking.
She, the character, had found the spirit within herself, that element that allowed her to overcome the obstacles, to rise above them to save, not just that unknown girl, but herself as well. I loved that quote and for several reasons identified with it. It eventually worked its way into a poem I wrote well over ten years ago. A poem that this most recent encounter with the bald eagle reminded me of, and the current prompt simply underlined. I went back in my files and found the poem, and it is still as true today as it was back there when it was written. Today, I face different difficulties, different obstacles and storm fronts. Today, I am still willing to carelessly risk. Here is the poem,
At 52, I am single, no longer someone’s spouse,
live in a small rented house,
but never quite alone.
At 52, I am a poet, tumble home through sea
of words, where I catch my breath
just above the water line.
At 52, I am a teacher, tell others to express
themselves, breath out, exhale, so they won’t
explode or hyperventilate.
At 52, I read, sell, and make words that sing
soul songs, always searching for
At 52, I look for more laughter, cry more easily,
move more slowly, and sit down a lot.
Have decided that at 53 I shall carelessly risk
becoming dangerous again.
Elizabeth Crawford 1999
first published in Splitting Darkness: Poems by Elizabeth Crawford.