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On Resilience and the Climb

We saw a bald eagle a couple of weeks ago, up in the Yelling Tree. This is a tree in our neighborhood that extends far above the others around it. Many birds perch there, but it's usually guarded by crows, a couple of ravens, and birds that look like barn swallows. When the various birds are present, all of them are chirping, cawing, ruffling feathers, and often arguing. Hence the name Yelling Tree. They congregate here, in the highest point in the valley, to survey, find prey, chat, and defend territory.

Bald Eagle Photo: Jerry Amenda / Audubon Photography Awards

I was walking with my son, just after January 6, 2020, a day that rattled us all. He skipped happily down the road, in full snow gear, looking like a navy blue pillowcase stuffed with marshmallows, and I trundled after him in my own similarly padded getup. I struggled to keep up. This is not because I'm out of shape, although to be honest it's quite possible I am. I haven't checked recently. I had this weight on me, the heaviness of the snow gear perhaps, combined with dark and clouded thoughts, circling questions I couldn't answer.

How will we get through this? What will it take to move away from 'us' vs 'them', and toward 'all of us together'? What are going to do to reconcile all of this? What can I do?

My son stopped in his tracks, as a van pulled up beside him. He turned and checked in with me, while the window slid down.

"Go look at the tree down there! There's an *actual* eagle!!" the driver yelled, excited to share the news with someone, anyone, on this empty winter street.

We thanked the driver and took off, since from our current vantage point we could indeed see something massive perched up in the Yelling Tree. We ran down to the closest point possible, and YES! it was not just any eagle, but an adult Bald Eagle. They were until recently endangered in Vermont, and it's not often you get the chance to see one. For the past few years, we had seen a juvenile eagle, its feathers all shades of brown and sepia, getting hassled by the crows and other birds who formed bird mobs to defend what they saw as their territory, but this was the first adult. When I put it together, it's quite possible this is the same eagle, given the timing and location.

I, of course, OF COURSE, did not have my 'real' camera with me, but I did manage to get a couple of photos with my phone. It watched us watching it, and just looking at it gave me shivers. It seemed impossibly large for the branch to hold it up.

My estimate put it to be at least as large as my son (who is 5 years old). Ever the clever opportunist, he suggested we go home and get some cat food to leave out for it so it could eat, and then we could get a better look. I squashed the plan, but loved the thought behind it. I have seen the Rescuers Down Under about a dozen times, so I get where he's coming from. If you haven't seen it, literally stop reading this and go watch it. Classic. For my son's part, he is just as curious as I am, though soon grew bored of watching the quietly sitting bird, and the cold seeping in through his gear while we we stood still.

Just as I was about to take us home, grateful for being able to catch a glimpse of this wild, symbolic bird, a loud POP of gunshot went off.

Oh no, someone else saw the eagle, too!!

The bird startled - no, no, no - ballooned its feathers, and moved into a stance for flight. But no, it had not been hit, just alarmed. It looked like it recognized the sound of a rifle, and knew what that sound meant. It eased itself back into place, almost turning to stone, making itself invisible to anyone not paying attention.

"It's ok," I told my son, who was worried, "Looks like it just scared it. It wasn't hit."

Then the bird, as though reflexively, got visibly and violently sick to its stomach, which to us seemed like a perfectly normal reaction. Relieved and not wanting to make the bird any more nervous, moved on toward home.

My son skipped ahead, and now I had the opportunity to look at that weird and unexpected twist to our day. Symbols and metaphors fought for real estate in my mind.

America - Bald Eagle - Sick - Violence

But also -

Hope - Recovery - Resilience - Patience

To me, that means I accept all the harmful, rough, raw bits of living in this country at this time, and continue to climb, in my own small microcosm, and in my own way. I will continue to pay attention to the larger picture, to the truth, and also tend my children, my partner, my self, and the lives we are building. I will tend to the amazing people I work with and support, who are finding their way in a constantly shifting landscape. I will tend to my immediate community, and while we do not all see things through the same lens, or even get the same information, we do all have a basic goodness, a desire to be happy, and want to avoid suffering. In this, we are kin.

May this indeed be a New Dawn, for all of us.

With Peace, Hope, and Love -

Rachel V.

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