After a recent outpatient procedure, as I secretly celebrated waking up from anesthesia and not dying, my husband drove me home down the back country roads. Through the passenger window I idly watched winter-brown grass, trees, and old gray outbuildings zipping by, noted a small clearing with a tiny pond nestled in wood-strewn ground, an eagle sitting by the wayside—
We said it simultaneously, my husband and I: “THAT’S AN EAGLE!”
Just a quick impression, sitting majestically, facing us, huge, white head gleaming atop the dark body, not ten feet away . . . .
We were past it as soon as the sight registered on our brains.
“Go back! Go back!” I pleaded, grabbing my phone, opening the camera.
A sssskkkkrrrrttt! of a turn-around at a dirt driveway, and we were back in a flash.
It watched us, unmoving, as we neared, but when we slowed, the eagle grew suspicious. It took off. Within a millisecond, into the bare, gnarled oaks.
“No! Wait! Wait!” I cried, snapping as fast as I could.
We rolled a little farther, but the only good shot I got was of its back, soaring away.
Gone. I missed the moment. Failed to capture my encounter with the wondrous. I have never been that close to an eagle in the wild. I’ve hardly seen any free ones at all, in fact. I’ve heard them calling in their high, haunting, piercing voices, have seen one perched on top of a streetlamp, but never anything like this.
I grieved my loss: It would have made such a great blog post, too.
I got home, got into bed.
The image of the eagle wouldn’t leave my thoughts. It stayed, motionless, watching me. Cocked its head, affixed me with its eye, its penetrating gaze.
—Why wouldn’t you stay so still just a little while ago?
It ruffled its feathers. Kept right on staring at me.
So I looked it up.
There are few things I love better than symbolism, and few are better-known than the eagle: The national bird, on the Great Seal of the United States. Revered icon of ancient times, civilizations, people. Mascot to numerous sports teams—even that of the school where I work.
But this is what got me about the eagle:
It is a symbol of healing.
It is a symbol of transition, some element of life or creative endeavor, about to take flight.
—Dare I see it as a sign that all shall be well, that some new venture, personal or professional, lies just ahead?
It was just an eagle sitting by the wayside, as eagles surely do, somewhere, every day.
Only this time I happened to see it. In the blinking of an eye.
I blinked back at it.
So, I told it, you wouldn’t stay put for a real picture, but now you linger as a mental one. If you’re going to hang around portending something, then let it be my creativity and insight taking flight. Let it be about thing I love to do most—let my writing be courageous and free, with clarity of vision. Let it fly, let it fly, on and on, higher and higher.
Only then did the image fade; only then did I rest.
I fell asleep.
And woke in the morning, renewed, resolute.
No more missed moments. There aren’t moments to lose.
—I’m ready for whatever lies ahead. Lead on, eagle.