For a while, the world was obsessed with the eagle web cam documenting the lives of two bald eagles who have nested in a Tulip Poplar tree in Washington, DC, and have proceeded to capture the world with their two eaglets (and their curious menu.*)
Mr. President and The First Lady, as they’re called, are the first eagles (that we know of) to nest in the DC area since 1947. In 2015, they raised a first eaglet.
Every so often I turn on the eagle cam and watch them. The breeze rocks the tree and ruffles their feathers as they huddle there in austerity, pecking at flies as if to distract themselves from the interminable boredom of being confined to a nest, the mother to keep her babies warm and the babies to wait for their feathers to fledge.
And not much happens.
My fingers sometimes twitch to find the fast forward button while they sleep, heads tucked beneath their wing. Then I remember—this is real time. Reality knows no rush. Time will not be hastened. The micro-life plot somewhat plods. And, also, bald eagles will sleep as long as they darn well please. (Though once I was rewarded for my patience by seeing an eaglet shoot a projectile stream of poop over the side of the nest.)
Each time I visit the website, perhaps to assuage my boredom, I’m drawn to the disclaimer below the video.
This is a wild eagle nest and anything can happen. While we hope that two healthy juvenile eagles will end up fledging from the nest this summer, things like sibling rivalry, predators, and natural disaster can affect this eagle family and may be difficult to watch.
It gives me chills to think of watching a predator kill the eaglets or the eaglets harm one another or the nest fall from the tree. I’m horrified to think of watching life play out its gruesome tale, with me helpless to intervene.
May be difficult to watch, the disclaimer warns. There’s still time to back out, to close the window and go watch a Disney movie—something you can fast forward through the scary parts to the happy ending.
Here at Goose Hill, we’re surrounded by goslings and ducklings. Last night Laura and I strolled around the lake at the back of the property. (We also have a lake at the front of our property). The geese had congregated—the families of five, six, seven, and another of five newly hatched goslings. Twenty-three yellow- and gray-downed goslings scurried behind us and in front of us, down the hill, pecking the whole way. Their parents hissed and gave the evil black eye, as if reminding us exactly where the term to be goosed came from.
Each time we see the geese families, we count them, relieved to find that all the families are accounted for. No goslings lost. But we know that anything can happen.
Cars. Hawks. Cats. Storm drains. Disease. Snapping turtles. Cruel humans.
I think it keeps us grounded to watch something other than ourselves surviving. It keeps our minds off, yet somehow on, the fact that real life is perilous, for birds and otherwise.
God sees every sparrow—but the sparrow still falls. Though we’re cradled in the Father’s grace, not one creature is immune to the Fall. Life doesn’t have a disclaimer so blatantly stated, still we know it’s there, silently posted above, beneath, through every day: This is life and anything can happen.
In every fragile moment, may heaven find me grateful.
Rejoice that your uncertainty is God’s will and His grace toward you and that that is beautiful, and part of a greater certainty. . . . be comforted in the fact that the ache in your heart and the confusion in your soul means that you are still alive, still human, and still open to the beauty of the world. . . . And when you resent the ache in your heart, remember: You will be dead and buried soon enough. –Paul Harding, Tinkers
*Recently, the eagle family made the news when one of the parents brought home a cat for lunch.
**Though not entirely creative or original but certainly appropriate, the eaglets’ names are Freedom and Liberty.