Eagle’s grace

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A few days ago, I went for a walk down our road in a subdued mood. A dear friend of mine was going through another bout of recurring depression. Aching sadness pooled inside me along with helplessness that, for the moment at least, she was beyond my reach.

The afternoon contrasted sharply with my clouded state: a crisp cool day, a clear blue sky. One of my favourite spots on this walk is a large gravel pit, banked by an enormous rock wall, full of wavy contrasting bands of rust and black gneiss formations. I stopped there, as I always do, and admired the ice falls forming miniature glaciers along the rock face.

Looking up into the blue sky, I saw two ravens circling. Another bird flew in from the south – a heron at first glance. Then it banked and I saw the telltale white head and tail. A bald eagle, quite rare in these parts. Effortlessly soaring, the eagle looped around the pit, and glided through the pines topping the rock wall. While I watched, it continued to carve its wide circular path around and around. The ravens croaked. The eagle remained silent. Beautiful in its rarity, austere in its wildness. A benediction of unexpected grace. Joy Harjo’s Eagle Poem rose within me, and I couldn’t help but recite it aloud to the eagle, the ravens, the gravel pit and the rocks. As I finished the poem, the eagle flew away over the north side of the hill and disappeared from view.

Making my way home, clouds softened the sky. Fat snowflakes drifted down. I continued walking, soothed in my heart, and prayed that my friend – and all those downcast in depression – might also experience the balm of moments of grace from the wild.

Eagle Poem

To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you.
And know there is more
That you can’t see, can’t hear;
Can’t know except in moments
Steadily growing, and in languages
That aren’t always sound but other
Circles of motion.
Like eagle that Sunday morning
Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky
In wind, swept our hearts clearn
With sacred wings.
We see you, see ourselves and know
That we must take the utmost care
And kindness in all things.
Breathe in, knowing we are made of
All this, and breathe, knowing
We are truly blessed because we
Were born, and die soon within a
True circle of motion.
Like eagle rounding out the morning
Inside us.
We pray that it will be done
In beauty.
In beauty.

Joy Harjo


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