Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Interview With an Eagle

(Warning...  The following issue of Skiving Off contains a Motivational Speech.  If you are overly cynical or jaded, it may be best to wait for the next update.)

Sometimes life is like Robot Chicken, where you see something that is truly wrong, but you struggle to quantify exactly what the issue is.

Last night Gail and I were driving home from dinner.  Actually Gail was driving and I was staring out the passenger side window.  Sometimes just for fun Gail drives while speaking French like Rallying legend Sebastien Loeb and I scream out co-driver navigation commands in a fake Finnish accent, "Haaaard Left Fiiiiife Huudeeeeert metters oooofer da Ridddge!!!!!!!!!!!!"   (There's a reason Mika Hakkinen asks me to race with him every year... I'm that good.)

Nevertheless, last night I was just staring out at the muddy fields of Central Indiana when I yelled (in my own personal middle American accent), "Look at that hawk!!!!"  I pointed to the field off to the right where there was a giant hawk poking at something on the ground.  Then, it started running and flapping it's wings, and I said, "Well, that aint a hawk.  It must be a huge...crow."  My voice trailed off. 

I did NOT see it, but I imagine if we had been there 5 seconds earlier we would have seen little sparrows in green and yellow jackets & helmets running around before a yellow-clad Robin (the Shooter) saluted then started Vogue'ing.  Or as the Central Indiana Avian Catapult Procedures Manual describes, "extending his arm (wing) overhead and sweeping upraised hand (wing tip) downward in the direction of the launch, touching the deck and returning the hand (wing tip) to horizontal in the direction of the launch."

My brain was reeling.  The bird ran, flapped, and took flight; and it was NOT a crow.  It flew westward and crossed over Oak Ridge Road just as Gail piloted our TDi Jetta under it.  Kids, it was a MASSIVE hawk, and he was beautiful.  Still, I felt like I was five years old and reading Highlights because I was dealing with a "What is wrong with this picture?" situation.  Something seemed grossly wrong with the hawk's take-off.  Then, it hit me.  It was the flapping.

Hawks and eagles can be big, heavy birds.  However, they are beautiful.  They are birds that soar.  They dive.  They swoop.  That's how we humans like to envision our birds of prey.  Motivational posters show eagles soaring above majestic mountains, not running across muddy fields flapping their wings madly.  We like to see raptors swoop down and do a touch and go on a lake while pulling out a wriggling fish to serve as a carryout dinner for the chicks at home.  It is not as attractive to watch a hawk pecking at a dead rodent as its talons sink into the mud.
Yet the lesson is that even eagles hit bottom. 

Intrigued by what I saw with the hawk last night I called an eagle friend this morning and asked him about it.  His words were eye opening:

"Life is pretty sweet when you're soaring.  It's effortless.  It's both an adrenaline rush and an ego trip.  'Cause while  you're up there riding the thermals and taking your pick of the hot meals 500 feet below you, the humans just stare in awe.  What the opposable thumb crowd doesn't realize though, is that life happens, and sometimes we have to land and walk among them in order to get by.  However, we don't stay on the ground for long.  And as we run and flap and struggle for altitude, it isn't always pretty, but we do whatever we have to do to survive.  I'm an eagle, Jeff, and just because I occasionally have to get my talons muddy does not change who I truly am or what I was born to do.  Just because hunger can bring me to a place 'below' the humans does NOT mean I have to stay there.  I am an eagle, and regardless of the reading on the altimeter, you can rest assured that I am ALWAYS soaring on the inside."

Don't ever be embarrassed to flap. The soaring dreams we keep stored on the inside only come true through our tenacious efforts and our willingness to flap our way out of the mud.  (That last line is mine... not the eagle's).

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