The eagle is a bird of prey who evokes symbolism as much as any other iconic species of wildlife. I know for me, eagles have always been beacons of freedom, of strength, and of precision. They are birds worthy of respect and reverence.
On this day, I watched this mature bald eagle soar and land upon a rocky islet. Their feathers matched the chocolate lilies, or northern rice root, that they landed amongst. Perched there, resting where the deep inlets meet the rainforest, the eagle seemed nothing but soft and peaceful. Unhurried.
This photograph reminds me of my human tendency to project symbolism onto wildlife. I smile at remembering that each creature I have met in the wild has been as complex and dynamic a character as any person I’ve ever known.
A bird I know as strong, can just the same be soft and delicate.
This photograph reminds me of all the eagles I have ever met who were messy, and silly. Playful. Like an eagle I watched emerge from his nest as a fresh-born eaglet. He was an endearing ball of fluff from day one. Every day I would watch the nest tree for a while, only a child myself. The eagle grew bigger, and eventually learned to fly. Vividly I recall the day he tried to fly from the nest for the first time, and tripped in the air over big clumsy wings, plummeting down the tree trunk, bouncing from branch to branch until he finally got a grip on a tree limb. In that moment, I was sure that young eagle was embarrassed. I swear he looked around to make sure his parents didn’t see. Many moons later, I watched that same eagle, now grown and skilled at flight, as he curiously approached a frozen pond in the wintertime. He stepped onto the pond and began skating around, flapping his wings to keep balanced. He threw broken chunks of ice into the air with his beak and watched them smash to pieces.
So now, when I think of all the eagles I have ever met, I think of all they have taught me about what it is to be somebody. To be joyful, playful, embarrassed, clumsy, and brave. To be peaceful and unhurried. I am glad to know eagles are so much more than symbols of freedom and strength. I know that for me, their joyous and playful nature earns them as much respect as their regal precision.
An eagle among the chocolate lilies; Pacific feathers and northern flowers. Unhurried on a rocky islet in a remote rainforest. An eagle I won’t soon forget.