Morning Is Here!
In my last posting, Dichotomy of Place, I talked about the splendor of coming home, and of getting out early and spending the next morning photographing bald eagles back here in the Pacific Northwest. In truth, it was the next three mornings. The beauty was so awesome, so inspiring, that I had to go back again and again.
Under the Gaze!
There is no doubt that sunrise, first light, is my most favorite time of the day. Here in Whatcom County, to get to see the sun break over Wickersham or Stewart Mountain, or Mount Baker and the North Cascades, absolutely guarantees that the rest of your day will be wonderful and productive. You are alive and in the moment for that fleeting, special time when the sun says, “good morning” and sheds its first rays on the world surroun
ding you. You are a front-row spectator as the light creeps across the fields, glistening off the dew and frost on each blade of grass and fern, as the dark and the shadows melt away, and the steam rises off the local streams. Both your eyes and your soul pick up as the definition of everything around you comes into light and focus.
"The Eagle does not escape the storm. The Eagle simply uses the storm to lift it higher.”
Jack White, White Stripes
Mornings First Glow!
On these mornings, I stood alone on the side of the lake. Just me and my thoughts. First in near darkness, and then watching as gold and light delineated the surrounding forest and the fog and mist lifted off the water. A few moments later, I realized that I was not quite alone as I saw the outline of eagles perched on the nearby branches. Looking out across the water, a new clarity showed mergansers, loons and cormorants swimming and roosting on the nearby logs and pilings. Had they all been here just moments ago in the darkness? Like me, just waiting for our day to begin?
Smoke on the Water!
In the dark along the lake, it is hard not to feel a sense of power and connection watching the eagles. Even far away, on the other side of the lake, their white heads and straight posture scream “I am awake, alert, and looking for breakfast.” It is easy to see why native cultures saw the bald eagle as representing honesty, truth, majesty, strength, courage, wisdom, power, and freedom. The belief that the eagle flies closest to the creator! You get all of that even from a quarter mile away.
Up close, in the telephoto lens, their magnificence is even more intense and on full display. Hard not to be mesmerized by the power in that hooked beak, the intelligence in those piercing eyes, in awe over a wingspan that is greater than six feet. You just feel that they, sitting on their lofty throne, see everything. And taking another look around you wonder at what all you must be missing?
There along the lakeshore, in the melting dusk, I wish I could speak with them about life, love, and where they see this world heading. Mating for life, they must have a very good relationship with their significant others, and with those sharp eyes (which can pick out a rabbit at two miles away) they must have an amazing perspective on life. Maybe not, but there in the moment, as the world awakes, you feel like it must be so.
For a long while, the eagles just sat with me and looked out over the lake. Soon, they began to dive and strafe the other waterfowl, seeking to rob them of their morning repast on local kokanee. Soon after, I was treated to more aerial maneuvers as they fought amongst themselves to protect their territory. I stood there for several hours, alone with the eagles and my thoughts. Then, the sun was up and the world was bright and sunny. As if on cue, the eagles flew off to continue their day and I plodded back to my car to continue mine. So much better for the time spent!
Soon, the kokanee run will be over, and so the eagles will move on. Not far, just a little north over the hills to the Nooksack River where they will begin to feast on chum salmon. I am so thankful and blessed to live in an area of unsurpassed beauty and inspiration, and I can’t wait to go back to see eagles wherever they may be. During this holiday season, my wish for each of you is that you can spend time with nature, the ultimate healer. To drink in all that it has to offer, to allow nature to benefit your mental, emotional, and physical health. To stand alongside your own lake (or river or mountain) and to let nature teach us to be alive, aware, and living more in the present.
· The Bald Eagle is the only eagle indigenous to North America. In the 1960’s the National Audubon Society had completed a survey showing there were only 417 breeding pairs of eagles left in the lower 48 states. In 1973, the use of DDT was banned and that same year the Endangered Species Act was passed by Congress, giving protection to dozens and dozens of species on the brink of extinction. Through captive breeding, protection laws and stopping the use of DDT, the bald eagle was downgraded to a threatened species in 1994. By 2007, they had made such a comeback that they were taken off the endangered species list entirely.
· Shortly after the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776, the Secretatary of Congress Charles Thompson chose what he thought were the best elements of the various designs for the Great Seal of the United States, and in 1782 the Bald Eagle was chosen as our national symbol.