Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Of Life, Death and Eagles
On yesterday’s walk Maclovio and I had three interesting encounters. The mountain we walk up has three big microwave communication towers on it and, as we were starting up the last pitch, we encountered the man who maintains the towers, coming down. We stopped to chat about this and that. We were on the west side of the mountain; the wind was coming from the west; it was cold and overcast. Soon Mac was doing a little dance at my feet, looking pitiful and shivery and I was just about to bid my new friend, Dale, farewell and to hustle on home to build a fire, when I saw an amazing sight.
A huge bird was about to land in an old cedar tree about 50 yards up the road. At first I thought it might be a buzzard, but the furling of its wings as it landed showed that it wasn’t. There was only one other thing it could be – an eagle! Dale and I were elated. He ran to his truck and came back with the field glasses he uses to check the towers. With these he confirmed that it was, indeed, a golden eagle, then handed me the glasses so that I could see it, too.
What a magnificent, full-chested, hook-beaked creature! It sat in the top of that tree as if it owned it, fully present and in command. Then, we heard a cry and a second eagle swooped over us and then toward its companion, who leapt from the treetop and swept majestically into the air. Then, for a full half hour, the two eagles spiraled and curled through the air, up into the trees, down into the valley. They seemed to be inspecting trees with flat, broken tops, causing Dale and me to speculate that they might be a mating pair looking for a nesting site.
Finally, they cartwheeled away on the wind and Mac and I headed for home, with me keeping an eagle eye out, just in case the eagles might be interested in Mac the Snack. Golden eagles have a wingspan from 5 to almost 9 feet and they can bring down a deer. They’re even used to hunt wolves, in Asia! For those two, Maclovio would be nothing more than a four-legged meatloaf!
We were hurrying through the cold wind toward home when we encountered our neighbor’s dog Kia, standing in the road. Now Kai has been Alpha dog on top of this mountain for several years. She’s half wolf and half Rottweiler, big, all black and fairly formidable. She was my dearly departed Misha’s girlfriend, playmate and partner in crime. In her healthier days she would often accompany me home, receive a dog bone for her courtesy, and depart for home with the bone sticking out of her mouth like a cigar.
But recently, at age 12, she’s begun a decline.
So I was surprised to see her on the road, as she rarely leaves her yard, these days, or even eats, for that matter. I greeted her, then kept on toward home, but Kia surprised me by following along. She had the vague, blank look of the elderly in her eyes and, about half way to the house, sat down in the road and took a 5-minute rest. Then she rose up and continued on, even trotting part of the way. She was within a hundred feet of the house when she veered off the road and went sniffing along the edges of a pile of firewood, where she found a little pocket of rain water trapped in the edge of the tarp. She lapped it up thirstily then headed off into the woods.
I had the distinct feeling that she was looking for a place to curl up and die. A part of me wanted to just let her go and do what she instinctively wanted to do. But another part of me both felt responsible for her welfare and simply didn’t want to part with her. I called her back and she came, but unsteadily, then lay down in the middle of the road and refused to budge.
It occurred to me that she might still be thirsty, so I ran to the house and brought her a bowl of water, which she drank to the bottom – about a quart and a half. Still, she would not move from the road, so I ran again to the house and called her people, who came immediately to collect her in the back of their Subaru. So off she went, standing and swaying as they moved off down the bumpy dirt road.
Those three encounters, Dale, the eagles, and Kia, caused me to reflect on the cyclical nature of things. Dale and I are in our prime, strong, healthy and fully involved in life. Kia, on the other hand, is losing interest in this world and is ready to pass into the next one, while the eagles, if they are a mating pair, are preparing to bring new life back across the great divide between dimensions.
So, I got a little philosophy lesson from our hour outside and Maclovio got two bones, one for him and one that should have been Kia’s. It reminds me of a little Argentine gaucho song:
La vida es como un arroyo
Qui va a perderse en el mar.
Hoy, cruza campo de flores.
Mañana, seco arenal.
Life is like a little stream
That goes to lose itself in the sea.
Today, it crosses a field of flowers.
Tomorrow, a dry bed of sand.
As my friend Javier always says to me, This is life, Suzan; this is life.