We did not go to our fishcamp for eagles. Two days after Christmas we flew in the bush plane across Kodiak Island, over heavy-snowed mountains and then rode in a frigid winter skiff not for eagles, my constant neighbors, but-----for deer. (I will tell of that hunt later!)
Bald eagles are our messy crows, they with their haunting and hovering over anything dead or dying. They are thick as fleas on Kodiak and on Harvester Islands, their screeches like rusty hinges we hardly even notice. But I do. I with my camera still notice, still watch and catch them close, and far, and in between. I cannot help it. (VIDEO: Here an immature is feasting on the remnants of our deer. Watch for the dogfight near the end.)
This winter trip to Harvester held plenty of astonishments. I will share one with you here.
At the end of the year, the very end, when I am hunting for words to help us all onward, into another calendar, into another cycle of another year, without fear or dread, without apathy or ennui, without boredom or alarm, without terror or horror----I am also hunting for deer to fill our freezers. And I am watching eagles, all the regular customers, and then this appears, something I have never seen before:
I could not get a good shot---my zoom lens wasn’t working, but there it was among all the other brown immature eagles:
A white eagle. An albino eagle. Ornithologists will not be so dramatic, they will call it “dilute plumage,” or “leucistic” plumage, but I know wonder when I see it. I have watched eagles closely for 40 years. My husband for 50 years and never, never this.
In the bird world, albinos occur 1 in every 1,800 experts say. But no one I know in Kodiak has seen such an eagle.
I believe in miracles, but I don’t believe in signs, and I’m a skeptic about visions, but here is this eagle on my beach for two days, and I cannot get enough of him. He haunts the beach for two days, soaring over my head, beside me.
And these other eagles are so winter-hungry they let me walk close enough to nearly touch then. This daily eagle-watcher and dweller held her breath for hours . . .
I don’t believe in clichés either, but what do I do with these eagles whose wings nearly bat my face as I ponder the coming of another year? I will not miss this. I will not turn from the obvious, however familiar and rote we say it. Remember those words we sang 1000 times as kids and teens? But remember this, the larger frame for those words from Isaiah 40:
“To whom then will you liken Me,
Or to whom shall I be equal?” says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high,
And see who has created these things,
Who brings out their host by number;
He calls them all by name,
By the greatness of His might
And the strength of His power;
Not one is missing.
Why do you say, O Jacob,
And speak, O Israel:
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
And my just claim is passed over by my God”?
Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the Lord,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
Do you believe it? I believe it. Because in all the decades of my life, God has kept this promise.
And He reminds me now, even as I quake on the precipice of starting a new book (which petrifies and overwhelms me) . . .
And as I pray for my children and my suffering friends,
If, after 40 years, God can bring a never-before-seen albino eagle onto my beach,
If the eagles can launch themselves without fear every day into the frigid wind,
If God can feed his hungry tired creatures in the middle of winter,
If God knows the fall of every sparrow and the rising of every eagle,
then surely WE can enter this New Year
With Wonder and Astonishment:
What will God DO in and through US this year? What will He do HERE in this space? What wonders will He perform there in your house, your church, your city?
I can hardly wait to find out!