The Eagle

By Will Baker

Yesterday morning I had a beautiful drive into the office. The moon, just past full, hung low on the western horizon, just above the snow covered mountaintops. The early morning light shaded the peaks purple, as the color of the sky moved from violet, to a deep blue, with stars twinkling softly. The air was cold, just above zero degrees, and there was snow everywhere; on the road ways, the trees and in the yards of the modest little homes which, I passed by on my way to work. The children were beginning their hikes to their school bus stops, and delivery people were busy making their rounds. The rhythm of another Vermont winter’s day was repeating itself.

And as I often do, I busied myself with thoughts of my impending workday. I recalled the meetings that were scheduled, and the tasks that had to be done. And then I thought about other things: the recent election, after work errands and a little boy that I passed who seemed under dressed for the cold.

But all of these thoughts soon vanished when I saw an eagle. It was beautiful, all golden and majestic. It swooped low across the road, and then down into a field to snatch up its prey. I passed by before the bird rose into the air again, but I could imagine it sitting briefly in the snow, atop a hare that it held, grasped tightly in its talons, before taking flight back to its nest with its victim. What a mighty creature: It cares not about the cold, or politics, or running errands after work. It probably does not even appreciate the beauty, which surrounds him as he flies through the air. No, he is primal; he is majestic. He is freedom and elegance personified.

He is hungry therefore he feeds. He can fly therefore he does so. I do not concern him and he cares not that I watch him in fascination. It seems to me that, as long as I do not interfere with his business he does not care one wit about me. But he stopped me in my tracks. And since watching him that day I have thought about him, and the manner in which he went calmly about his business. For him, he was fulfilling his nature, but for me, this act of fulfillment was nothing short of performance art.

And I carried him with me through my workday. I told people about him, and looked for him on my way home. But he was nowhere to be found. And as I sit here writing these words, I can imagine him, nesting up high in the mountains some where, with the kind of simple contentment that only a full belly can bring. Seeing that eagle made my day, but I didn’t phase him. Even if he had noticed me, which, I am sure he did not, it is quite likely that I would have held little interest for him. And had I stopped the car and gotten out to get a better look, perhaps he would have considered me to be a nuisance, bothering his quarry, interfering with his business.

Well, I suppose that he will soar again, for that is his purpose, so simple, so elegant, but what of ours? It seems to me that we humans do not have this luxury: the opportunity to lean on a simple nature. No, nothing is quite that simple with us. We have love, and truth and beauty. We have avarice and hate. Inside us all dwell gods and cannibals. In each of our hearts there is knowledge of right and wrong. There is Einstein, Lincoln, Manson, Voltaire and Jesus Christ; it’s a crowded and conflicted place.

But gentle reader, might it not be possible for us to "soar" in other ways, each mode unique to ourselves as individuals, yet connected to one another by our empathy? If so, here is to hopes for our collective soaring. And maybe we can make the act performance art also.



 (Essay Collection)