Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Regret

What a beautiful day. She glided on the crisp, cool spring breeze catching updrafts that lifted her higher. Though they had moved nearer to the city to avoid the crowded woods, the air was still so fresh up here.

Her mate, being a bit of a risk taker, soared so high she thought he might not breathe. Then she’d catch him in her peripheral vision, drawing in his wings so he’d drop a hundred feet. She’d turn her head and fly in a different direction, pretending she didn’t see him.

But how she loved and respected him. Of all the mates who could have chosen her, she wanted him most. And they’d had so many perfect eaglets. Each had left the nest and found a niche in the world.
She knew that even at this age she still had the energy to raise two more fledglings. Obviously her mate was preparing to make it so.

A month and a half later, she sat on her two eggs. One deeply warm, one warmed only by her body. When the sun was at last warming her nest, she flew out and hunted. Her mate had always hunted while she warmed the eggs, but now she had no choice. She had to hunt alone because of the two-legged creature taking her mate to the ground. The creature had seemed pleased; she wondered why. Her heart ached. She had never been alone before.

It didn’t take long to see four voles scurrying to safety, or so they thought. Shrewd, swift, and with accurate aim, she caught the third one and took it high into a leafless tree to replenish her energy. She then returned to her nest to rest and provide warmth.

At last, a month later, she found an eaglet’s beak protruding from its shell. She was exhilarated, yet sad, but she tried to mask her feeling of aloneness and envelop herself in this wonderful event.

She squirmed her body around in her nest to accommodate the struggling life’s movements, until finally all the shell’s pieces lay far below on the earth.

Later that week, she sat alone high in the sparsely leafed tree enjoying a meal, remembering her mate. Surprisingly, a blackbird flew onto a nearby branch and began a loquacious greeting. Just a couple of months ago, she would have feigned a hunt and dropped toward the ground to avoid such garrulousness, but today as she reminisced, she welcomed the talkative fellow.

He said he’d been in the area for a few years and wondered why they hadn’t talked before. She shared of her wooded home of last year, and her mate’s plan of settling closer to the city. And, oh, how her belly ached for him.

Acquaintance made, they parted company, and she flew back to her young one.

The next day, again dining on her morning meal, she was greeted by the blackbird who began his chatter. He had a pattern, she noted, of mentioning the condition of the day, then talking about his past, and seemed never to tire of his stories. The present moment and future didn’t seem to occur to him.

Nevertheless, the two very different feathered creatures became friends, more or less, sharing life experiences—the blackbird’s more than the eagle’s, for she had always been somewhat reserved, sharing only her most intimate with her mate. Their manner of communication dissimilar, they still found common ground to relate to each other’s lives.

Weeks into their relationship, and after her unhatched egg had provided sustenance for the six-leggeds below, her eaglet tested her own wings. It was glorious—short, though delightful to watch her take a brief flight to a higher branch. Soon she was flying to other trees, while still depending on her mother for food, but her mother didn’t mind.

Inspired by her young one, the eagle flew to the meeting place and shared the good news with the blackbird, who was already awaiting her. Together they flew and, in a spirit of fun and friendship, competed for airspace, soaring, falling, and flying toward each other so hard and fast that they screeched when they didn’t collide.

That spontaneous event built trust between them. Before returning to her nest, the eagle and the blackbird conveyed gratitude that they had forged their unusual, yet devoted camaraderie.

In the days that followed, they watched the eaglet fly. Even others would pause to breathe in the young eagle’s first-awkward, then smoother flaps of her wings. Eagles, the observers would share with the mother, were uncommon in this part of the city, and her offspring was certainly a sight to behold.

The blackbird observed how the mother gave more attention to her young and all the others than to him, and it bothered him. He had grown accustomed to bathing in her presence alone, without competition. The less time he had with the eagle, the more he would fill their scant time with his incessant chatter, until she felt so smothered, it was as if she would suffocate.

On a cool, cloudy morning when it appeared the sun would stay asleep, the eagle glided over a field searching for a meal to share with her young one. An unaware rabbit below nibbled on weeds and grasses until he sensed the eagle above. Sitting motionless for a moment, he planned to bound directly toward the gulley, or as directly as his genes would allow.

When the eagle perceived the rabbit’s fear and calculated his probable route, she targeted ahead and successfully achieved her aim.

She flew back to the nest to share the food with her developing eaglet, enveloped in the moment. Focused on their meal, she didn’t hear the two-legged far away. With a bang and a burning sensation on her back, she winced and briefly fell aside. Gathering her strength, she and her young flew high and away from the menacing danger.

Days later she was healing well, for the sharp fire had only grazed her body, but she was feeling old and not nearly as sharp and agile as she used to be. Her eaglet could almost be called an eagle, soon to fly to her own home. And the eagle’s mate, well, she still thought about his flying antics, displaying his strength and virility for all the world to see, though she knew it was all for her.

The blackbird had grown more caustic, complaining to the eagle how she didn’t seem the same since she was hurt and her young was spreading her wings, though he carried on his loquacious banter as if her life were just her ears. She didn’t hear how angry her blackbird friend had become, because she was not well-versed in such emotion. She was unable to help her friend in his time of need. Nor he in hers.

So he plotted. He had made an acquaintance one day over an unlucky deer—a coyote who was always looking for a meal for her young. The blackbird helped her understand the patterns of his slowly waning friend, the eagle, so perhaps the coyote might rid the field of such a large-beaked creature.

Gliding down to a pond in the field surrounded by cottonwoods, marsh bushes, and cattails for a drink, the eagle didn’t see or suspect a thing. An alpha coyote leaped on her, while two others came out from hidden brush and took her down.

Then one day her young one flew to her own new home, while the blackbird stayed near the same field, sitting in the now-barren tree, looking for others to listen to his chatter.

He missed his friend and wondered why he had betrayed her. He felt loneliness that he'd never experienced and a regret that would never leave him.
(Puzzle pieces 25–27 of 38.)

copyright © 2008 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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