The other day, I was reading Emily’s blog about Ronan, her son with Tay Sachs; along side was the live stream of the eagle aerie in Decorah Iowa. The contrast was sharp–devastating. 43,613,105 people world-wide, so far, have checked in on the amazing development of the eaglets in Iowa. 70,000 are usually watching. Chatters talk about being addicted. There are long discussions about what if…
What if an owl attacked? (not likely, a screech-owl has been known to harass mom at night, but really it’s just nuisance value)
What if one fell from the nest? (possible, but again, not likely. This pair has a 100% success rate with their babies)
What if one attacks another? (Possible, but that likely would have happened already.)
What if there isn’t enough food? (Um, there is too much food — and they live next door to a fish hatchery).
What if one of the parents dies? (this is based on the fact that Dad’s first mate died in a storm. I wonder about this, now that there are babies — would the surviving parent abandon them? I immediately assign human emotion and say no. How could a parent abandon a child?).
What if, what if, what if! As I type, sitting in my office at work, a beautiful red tail hawk glides past the large plate-glass windows, most likely in search of food for his own developing young. I marvel at his grace.
Nature is the best drama — it beats reality TV, hands down! The site has had more hits than all of the news stories about William and Kate combined! Periodically, a chatter will remind viewers to donate to keep the site going. I’m sure thousands do.
As I watch Decorah-Mom feeding her clutch so tenderly, I think about Emily and the ferociousness of the love that bonds parent to child. There were rumors amongst the Decorah chatters about a nest in Texas that was blown out of a tree into a river last week. All the eaglets were lost. The parents stood helpless on the shore, their sharp eyes scanning the water for traces of their future…their babies. They stayed for several days calling to their lost family, in mourning.
Emily blogs about the choices that lie ahead for her…life support, the quality of life versus the quantity of days, feeding tubes, hospice, it touches me deeply–like wild mothers searching for lost young. When does life end and death begin? As I ponder, Decorah-Dad feeds his babies. Chatters root for E3 — the youngest of the eaglets. Eat your fill! Go E3! Don’t forget to donate!
I wonder if Emily will teach in the fall. She is one of the best writing teachers I have ever had. Early on, there were suggestions that she would perhaps take a job abroad for the summer, in Spain. She worried that it would take her too far from her fragile family; that there wouldn’t be money for all three of them to go. It’s a conversation that if it hasn’t died away, it has, at least, become very private. Go Emily! Get your fill! I am one of Emily’s dedicated readers. Some blogs are hard — they are all heartbreaking. The eaglets have the support of millions. There will be hundreds of thousands of dollars donated so that next year we will be able to once again watch nature up-close and personal…through our computers. Which really seems oxymoronic. The donation site for Ronan at gofundme stands at $8,086, with the last donation made twenty-one days ago. The Tay-Sachs foundations struggles. Why is it we are so willing to bolster up species other than our own? Will we pay to watch life, but not save it?
The hawk lands on a log on the edge of the woods about forty yards from where I type. The neighborhood is missing one more squirrel. The hawk is content. The squirrel’s family will likely collapse and his or her babies will die.
Ronan’s bright eyes and smile haunt me. Emily’s pain tugs at me — it echoes pain I have felt (with far less finality!). I’ve never met Ronan, and probably never will. Emily and I were ships in the night. Sure, sure, we have things in common; Irish-ness, Boston, the Red Sox, politics, writing … a fierce desire to protect our children. Perhaps it is my own journey and pain concerning my children that creates a distance there, I don’t know. I do know that the most frightening and lonely moments in my life have been sitting beside cribs and beds in hospitals watching my children, hooked to monitors and machines, breathing quietly; sharp eyes scanning for signs of life.
The hawk is run off by some crows. He loses his lunch. He screams as he takes flight — cursing the smaller, less intelligent, less beautiful, less…majestic bird.
And then there is silence.
We pat ourselves on the back for defining the problem of what was causing the decline of bald eagles — ultimately us! And we fix it. Outlaw DDT. Aren’t we amazing? We can watch the miracles in Decorah because humanity did the right thing. Yay us, go team!
Sir Terry Pratchett this week went to investigate an euthanasia center in Sweden. He has early onset Alzheimer’s Disease. He is going to lose his mind and die. What a horrible thought, not the dying part. I cannot imagine losing my ability to think coherently — I cannot fathom knowing that’s what is happening to me. For a writer to lose the ability to articulate cogent thought… It must be like Chinese water torture. Ronan, Emily’s son, has Tay-Sachs. He’s going to die; Emily’s Chinese torture.
Nature is cold and cruel. We watch it in wonder, awed by the majesty whilst denying the anguish it can cause and create. I watch the Decorah eagles; their beauty, their majesty, their dedication. The serenity. I can appreciate them because I have seen nature’s cruelty. I have walked a short mile on the road Emily now trods, luckily mine detoured and had a happy ending. But there is forever a shadow that lingers; the memory of a pain for which there is not and never will be words. There is a simple sense of peace watching a mother feed her babies far away in Iowa. There is understanding–empathy as I watched her hunker down while it snowed, covering them at all costs. There is a serenity in knowing that when it comes to mothering, species is mere dressing…
And there is a freedom I can feel when they, the eagles and my hawk neighbor, take flight. They soar above it all; flight is a sort of divinity. As they glide on the breeze, I imagine their troubles and worries fall away. They have conquered gravity…
And if they can conquer that, there are no limits. In some ways, I envy them their ability to rise above it all.
Maybe, in our troubled world, that’s why 2 eagles in a cottonwood tree in Iowa can command such attention; their simple dedication to their task, their ability to withstand what nature throws at them, the serenity they embody. Let’s admire the beauty, but while you are clicking on pay pal so we can all see them again next year, don’t forget that Terry and Ronan need us too.
And now I will go and watch as the Decorah eagles settle in for the night. Serenity is contagious.
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