Glimpse Four

I seek to prepare to celebrate the birth of God-with-Us this year by watching for instances of the holy breaking into the ordinary.  With eyes wide open and a spirit attempting to be attentive, I will share glimpses of glory that I witness as Christmas approaches.


Bald eagles are one of nature’s Christmas gifts to us here. Starting sometime around Thanksgiving, the majestic beauties stop off on their way south for the winter, and gorge themselves on the salmon that  die after spawning (the fact that there are salmon in this fresh water lake is another wonder, but I’ll save that story for later). Sometime after New Year’s, most of them depart, presumably because the salmon have done their thing and the feeding frenzy is over for another year. That means for about six weeks, we have the privilege of watching them in trees, in flight, mid-dive and mid-dinner. It also means that the narrow, winding lake road we drive whenever we go to town becomes a hazard that should be identified in distracted driving laws. This piece of road has no shoulders. On one side, the lake beckons; on the other, steep rock escarpments climb high enough that serious head twisting is required to eye the top. Add to that pedestrians walking the roadside, photographers with monster lenses positioned outside the guard rails, cars parked under the embankment, and drivers who try to avoid the obstacles while watching for eagles. Spectacularly hazardous!

I have long been enthralled by eagles. Perhaps because sightings used to be so rare and their future so endangered; perhaps because somewhere along the way they were identified as a national symbol; perhaps simply because they are so majestic, regal, awe inspiring and down right breathtaking. Their image was tarnished a bit the day I saw one eating road kill alongside other scavengers, but still, I continue to thrill at their presence. This season, I’ve marveled to see a single tree host a dozen birds at one time; a small amount of research told me that when mating season is done and their stomachs are full, they are able to play well with others, or at least pose for the camera in friendly proximity. And today, I learned of their vulnerability: two have already died along our shores this season from lead poisoning. If they pick up even a small fragment of a lead bullet that’s been cast off as trash, they will likely die a slow and painful death: without sight, with green tail feathers, too weak to stand, unable to digest food, unable to be treated.

I struggle a bit to integrate all of those images into one bird. Can’t a mighty fishing warrior prevent such vulnerability? Why would one who sits so regally and royally want to share his tree with others? Surely, a creature that can land a dive better than the best Olympic swimmer and come away with food for the family doesn’t need to scavenge off the roadside. And yet, there’s something wondrous in the way this one bird weaves together so many seemingly disconnected traits.  Sometimes our strength lies precisely in our ability to embrace our weakness, our willingness to accept our need of others. How glorious is it when arms that rule with power and might also gather a brood together, offering shelter and comfort to the lowest and least? Blessed are those who choose not to remain above and apart from the unappealing and demeaning tasks that might be relegated to others; instead, they level the playing field, labor alongside the down and the dirty, and work together for the sake of the common good.

It would seem the eagles have learned their lessons well. The question is if we will learn from them.


1 comment

    • Dawn Shippee on December 14, 2017 at 2:35 pm

    Your voice lives loud and clear! So many things beautifully expressed. Thank you!

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