SATURDAY, AUGUST 14, 2010
Early morning passes into mid-morning and there is no sense of time passing. No definition, no delineation of light beyond the dense, white of the cloud I am in. I cannot see 100 yards beyond me, if that much. I am on the lake one final time, kayaking and looking for my eagles. Though they are not mine, the time I have spent among them feels like they are my people. The ones you know deep in your heart.
Down lake is in a fog. The shoreline and trees are mist laden and fade in and out of view as the cloud gently moves across the rim. I am heading up lake to the whale’s tail. The calls of an eagle guide me. The lake is flat, flat calm as my paddles dip in, creating whorls that drift away behind me and slip into oblivion in the descending sky.
I am looking for that one, last, moment – a picture to capture what I feel of this place and time in my life. This image will remain with me long after I am gone from here. What this moment will bring is yet unknown. But as I slowly make my way up channel, I think back on all the times in my life when, for a brief moment, I foresaw a future looking back at the place I was in. It’s as if now, I am looking down at a woman in a kayak, paddling solo in the silence. Yet, I am not alone. Something ethereal is floating around and along side of me. Maybe these are not premonitions, but then what are they?
Three years ago I was leaving eagles and a flash of this awareness struck me as I walked three miles out on a hot summer morning. In my minds eye, I can still walk each step of that trek. I see the incline of the rocky, rutted road, the drop-down past the power lines to the rubble bridge, the base of the canyon and the steep, winding, shade-deficit hillside leading up the juniper slope and out to the edge of the Verde River canyon.
I spent that morning alone, searching and listening. I listened to the wind and the chuckle of water in the river 200 feet below. And I listened for the call of eagles.
I sat with patience and reverence, sweat running down my face and the hot wind sucking all moisture from my body. Even the ants that reside at this observation point went underground before 7 a.m. The eagles were no longer in the nest and this, my last stop for the season, was to search the sky and the canyon below for signs of eagle activity and to confirm the fledglings were still alive. They graced me with soaring flights along the river as I watched from above. A rare moment to be above a pair of soaring eagles. It was so tempting to think of dropping from the cliff and joining them in the reverie of flight.
The scorching 110 degree sun made the journey out a challenge. Each shadowy patch under a juniper or against a bluff edge was a respite and greatly cherished. And what a gift it became.The heat slowed my pace and forced me to stop along the way to drink the last dregs of tepid water. I paused and found a flat rock under a scrub juniper, checked for scorpions and snakes and then sat looking at a vista that took my breath away. Mt. Humphrey was visible beyond the Mogollon Rim. The Verde River and Sycamore Canyon stretched out below my shaded perch.
I wondered what was next for me and I wondered if I would ever see this place again. A premonition or awareness struck me then, as it does now. A strong thought that there could be a future time when I might not be able to walk or make this journey and in my mind I quietly reminded myself to savor it.
With that thought I hiked out, grateful for my legs. Without them, this place would not have existed for me. Four months later, the premonition became a reality, and as I lay in a hospital bed, unable to walk, the eagles of the Verde came back to me. I floated in the world of pain and surgeries and hiked the path to the cliff’s edge. And then, when I was wheeled out of my room I looked up to see a painting of a bald eagle in flight next to my door.
Now my kayak slips around the bend along the shallow north shoreline. I turn to see two juvenile eagles perched on a stump at the waterline. In the stillness and near perfect silence of the fog, the beat of huge wings elevates one eaglet. The sound only a raptor in flight can make. He flies over me. I can still feel and hear the air foil beneath his wings. The second eaglet hopped, briefly perched on a nearby rock and took to the air looking down at me, calling to his sibling as he passed over.
Leaving, leaving again. All part of the circle I travel. New things are ahead of me, not clear in my limited earth-bound vision, no definition or delineation of light on the subject, just like the cloud I am drifting through. But then, what is this moment? And have I learned not to fear what I cannot see? Maybe these experiences, these portents in life have shown me that what we cannot see is relevant to what we chose to see. Life is going to happen, calamity is imminent, but so too, the magic, the lessons, the stories.
To say farewell to the eagles is as normal to me as saying farewell and be well to friends. I know that no matter what comes, I will see them again.