This posting is a bit different from any of my previous posts. I almost didn’t post it but after seeing some recent news reports and interviews I was moved to send it out there.
I never can tell what I may see as I sit and wait for the only two eagles residing in Montgomery County, Ohio to do something…or to even do nothing someplace where I can see them not doing it. Watching is a lot more fun when there is something to watch. So as I wait for Jim and Cindy to honor me with their presence I pass the time by watching other things like songbirds, groundhogs, deer, coyotes, water fowl… If it passes nearby, I watch it. And then I take a few pictures of it. (Let’s just say that if I ever start a groundhog watching group, I’m all set.) As a Christian I admire the uniqueness and beauty of each creature that I encounter and as an American I hold an even greater admiration for the American Bald Eagle. But once in a while something extraordinary will pass by that can be beautiful, somewhat frightening and yet thought-provoking all at the same time.
A few days ago I saw a different eagle passing through the skies above Eastwood…this one:
Dayton Ohio was the home of Wilbur and Orville Wright and is still the home of the Wright Patterson Air Force Base. In fact, Huffman Prairie where Will and Orv perfected their flying machines in the years following their historic 1903 success at Kitty Hawk, is now part of the massive base’s acreage. Wright Patt (as it is commonly called) also maintains various systems on the presidential airplane that (when the president is onboard) is known as Air Force One. This means that several times each year our fleet of giant C-17 cargo planes have to yield the skies to this most famous of all 747s. I always snap a few images as she passes nearby, glistening in the sunlight and purring like a kitten.
Now frankly, I am not at all a big fan of aircraft passing through Jim and Cindy’s airspace. Planes have tragically proven to be deadly hazards to Bald Eagles, as have automobiles and other manmade inventions, but the threat that those inventions pose are a part of the current reality of life in the wild. As I watched this shining behemoth circle overhead, a question flashed across my mind.
Why do so many eagles seem to choose nesting sites near airports?
Airports by necessity are wide open spaces with vast grasslands that are plentiful sources of prey. The cleared airport grounds are usually surrounded by large trees suitable for supporting large nests. A bird of prey may find nesting on the edge of the open field an advantage for ingress and egress from their nest tree. The winds passing unobstructed above the grassland may provide assistance for becoming airborne and the sundrenched, flat ground and paved runways may help create the thermals necessary for soaring. Most airports are just outside of developed urban areas that were settled more than a century ago along the banks of a river and having water nearby is a basic requirement for prime Bald Eagle nesting territory. If I were an eagle I would know these answers but for now I will have to settle for educated guesses. (Of course, if I were an eagle, typing on this keyboard with my talons would be very difficult and I suspect that eagles are notoriously poor spellers.) Whatever the reason, the presence of aircraft near Jim and Cindy’s domain is a fact that I have learned to live with.
As I looked at the seal adorning the side of Air Force One I was reminded of how in 1782, after 6 years of debate, The American Bald Eagle was made our national symbol and that seal was born. There have been various representations of The Seal with some minor adaptations over the last 234 years but I believe our Founders were onto something. The Bald Eagle is a true North American native. It embodies power, strength, intelligence and gracefulness along with many other admirable attributes. (I know old Ben Franklin preferred the wild turkey but who wants to eat eagle for Thanksgiving dinner?) The eagle on the official seal has an olive branch in its strong right foot and a bundle of arrows in its weaker left foot. The olive branch symbolizes peace while the arrows represent might. The eagle’s head is turned to its right preferring peace when possible. There is a lot of wisdom in that design. The shield on the eagle’s chest has 13 stripes, alternating red and white in color, upholding a star-spangled field of blue. This shield symbolizes the purity of vision and the blood of sacrifice of the original 13 states underpinning the institution of the federal government. Many other symbols appear on the seal but these spoke to me.
As I thought about these features of the seal I felt gratefulness for the freedoms that we so easily take for granted and at the same time challenged to pray for our leaders. In this divisive, politically-charged climate we can lose sight of the unity of our union. “E Pluribus Unum” (from many, one) is a precious commodity in these troubled times. Whomever occupies The Oval Office and Air Force One, now or in the future, needs our prayerful support. The President of The United States of America needs a clear vision to govern and the wisdom to make life-changing decisions. The Founders noted that we as Americans “are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights” and we are mandated in The Bible to pray to that Creator for those in authority over us.
As Air Force One passed above Jim and Cindy’s Treetop Palace I was reminded that this world is a perilous place.
As it passed once more over their mighty sycamore I began to pray in gratitude for my liberty as an American as well as in gratefulness for the Bald Eagle population recovery I am so blessed to witness.
Then, on its final pass, a lone juvenile Bald Eagle emerged from the treetops
and I was shocked by the reality of the dangers that exist in our changing world and the coming struggles that my own children and grandchildren may witness. I was also struck with the truth that this nation itself, with all of her faults and blemishes, is a fragile gift from God.
Being the child of two WWII veterans, my country has a special place in my heart, so I was grateful that on this day I was reminded of my blessings and duties as an American as I looked upon a different eagle overhead.