Bald Eagle

H. E. Wheeler

© Copyright 2023 by H. E. Wheeler

Photo by Richard Lee on Unsplash
Photo by Richard Lee on Unsplash

Our cabin meets the end of a gravel lane in the backwoods of some property in the rural foothills of Mount Rainier. It has about a thousand square feet of livable walking space and a high ceiling that makes for ample flailing about areas you would have to see to believe. As tall as we could make it safely to code to sit on 30x20ft surface, and as many windows possible that could be withheld as structurally sound. The biggest one we could get, reasonably, opens up to our backyard forest and man made meadow next to our front door. The tops of trees stand a hundred feet towering in view from our front porch. Really, they are wide steps a neighbor made for us in about a half hour from slabs he recently milled, his housewarming gift to grace the entrance of our newly built home. A modest setting to what became a once and a lifetime sight.
The porch steps are warm with Spring light. An aroma hinting of the mountain snowdrifts move past the open door. My firstborn sits atop my lap. The second child freshly standing in the world wobbles in a deep wagon about four stair steps and six paces in front of us. We are enjoying each other and the surroundings when a sudden sound from behind the house skips our hearts. Around the corner, towards the back right of the house, we hear a loud thump crash that makes me think of metal cans yet somehow more organic. I am alert with an awareness of movement before seeing it. I straighten. My whole body is poised for ready. A screechy squeal, skittering noises, some paces towards the front of the house. 

The movement sounded fast. It felt I had only a mere half second to decide if I was to respond—children, the light of the day, and where I was positioned near the house became a factor. 
Hey!” I shouted. I made it loud and low, stern with a touch of erraticism to keep it unpredictable, from somewhere between my chest and gut, and not abrupt, but crescendoing so as not to frighten but startle. It was instinctual. I hear something stop, then a rustling, this skiiiiiid right into view. Oh, hi, large Bald Eagle.
Large Bald Eagle!!
How long is a moment? 

In this case it was infinity condensed to about eight seconds:
One. The eagle is in full view now. Just past the corner of the cabin, every glorious inch showing. It’s wings pulled in, curved around the air in two outstretched primaries cradling unchanged force. I noticed it didn’t move its head like a human would coming around the bend. With its mouth open slightly, only its eye turned to me, exceptionally locked under the unexpected shock.
Two. Yes, it startled very much! Ha! And me, too! So much so it lost its lunch, an anticipated meal of our tamed pet bunny that got too close to the open space near the evening’s five o’clock browsing hour. At the same time the eagle and I are introducing ourselves, our rascal of a bun, who we call Christmas, blows out of its talons down the path, careening serpentine in the dirt, flopping nearly segmented but perfectly healthy for forty feet into a stump hollow to safety. Later discovered without a scratch. 
Three. I’m already halfway to my feet, slow to ease into it deliberately and fast enough to show where I stood was about to be forefront the children while also getting as close as I could get to the majesty before us.  When I saw Christmas was saved, a smile spread across my lips in welcome of this immense creature before me, now naked with excuses. I knew the animal felt my body changes, signals that I was not afraid, but also with an eager race to not miss anything as my heart was beating fast to greet it. It held back flight movements to take it all in. 
Four. I am expecting the launch. The moment holds, stretching the gaze to keep him there. Now standing, I lean into one pace forward with no intention to blink. He doesn’t disappoint in every amazement. One bounce and a swoop has its body in the air again. He moves diagonally nine feet upward. 
Five. It STOPS midair.  Or sort of floats, gyrating twelve feet from the ground. Its body twisting, using the currents of space, tucking his wings spherically to circle 180-degrees.
Six. It gave a wonderful flap and some sort of throat sound, flew off diagonally to the tops of the tallest fir just beyond the cabin. 
Seven. At this point, I am under where it hovered and exclaiming awe!
Eight. My body decides to give a laugh cry and I allow it. Quite overwhelmed with gratitude, yipping and yelling “thank you” and “what the what?” “how?” “hey!” 
The bird left marks where sharp appendages and disarmed elbows met the dirt path as he slid to a stop into view. A four inch long three inch deep gash in the lawn shows where he grabbed the morsel. Measuring the distance of length between pinky toe to talon was as far as two people linking hands. 
At least I greeted it and said goodbye in some fashion. It has been by since then dropping feather gifts. But also… I haven’t seen Christmas for some time. That eagle may have developed a one track mind. It’s still young yet. Five or six years by my based on some research and his epic fail at getting dinner that day. We always hope the newest member of the wild is alive. She knew the risks of freedom. It was well worth it for her, every night perched in her pen sniffing the beyond. She earned her place and knew the risks even more after this first attack, all the merrier to be alive. The best to her. She, the bravest puff of fur I have ever known. With some hope, maybe she just ran away with her newfound native bunny friend that has been hanging around the house with her in the mornings.    

H. E. Wheeler is a nature enthusiast, avidly pursuing the physical and literary sensations of the wide, untamed world. Her poetical and candid style hopes to put the reader alongside the adventure, with a heart for sharing an appreciation of education and conservation, keeping the wild its wildest. 

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