Tuesday, February 19, 2013

searching for the eagle

My quest for communing with God recently took me to North Creek County Park. This park consists of a sizable bog with boardwalks. Having several hours to spend, I slowly meandered down the boardwalk, camera in hand watching and listening. The day was overcast with an occasional light drizzle.

Not far into my walk a man was about to pass me when he paused and told me about of a pair of nesting eagles on this bog. He pointed me to a very distant evergreen tree, "There he is, can you see him? That branch to the left, the one that's kind of pointed up, once you find that branch, just look toward the trunk a little ways and there he is." I didn't see it. He thrusted his field glasses in my direction and told me to give them a try - it didn't help as I still couldn't spot that eagle. He parted with some compassionate words of how difficult it can be to see the eagle's white head against the overcast sky.

A few minutes later we caught up to each other again and this guy's excitement about the eagle had intensified. We went through the same routine as before with the same ending, no eagle for me. Again he departed with some hopeful statement about maybe I would be able to see it as the boardwalk got a bit closer to that tree.

This same interaction occurred several more times, each time with the same ending. With each additional failure, I noticed my internal self-talk start to turn against me as my shame crept more and more into my headspace. I should be seeing this damn eagle, this guy can see it without the fracking binoculars, what the hell's wrong with me that I can't even see a stupid bird that's in plain sight?... I started to consider fibbing to the guy, "oh yea, I see it, thanks, gotta go now..." just so he would go away and more importantly, my unpleasant growing feelings of shame would go back to where they came from. While noticing my shame I also noticed the effect of this man's continued patience and graciousness on my ability to advocate for myself against my shame. I was ok with not seeing the eagle and I would remain ok if I never saw the dumb eagle - there was no need for lying.

It may have been the fifth time of us running into each other on the boardwalk that at long last I saw the eagle! Hallelujah!! By this time the eagle was in front of a green branch, so his white head really stood out and made him quite obvious. After having finally seen the eagle, I had no troubles going back and finding him again and again.

Can you spot the eagle?
The friendly bird-watching man reminded me a lot of my father. My dad loves birds - he's a definite bird nut! In 1989, my father and I went in search of eagles - the first nesting pair of eagles in New Hampshire since 1949. We took several weekend trips up to Lake Umbagog, a 4 hour drive each way, packing the canoe, camping gear and photography equipment. It was awesome.

Describing the location of a bird at a great distance to someone is not easy. I don't remember dad's exact words he would say to help me see the birds he had spotted, but I believe he helped me just like this guy at the park. One of the many gifts I received from my father is an appreciate for the outdoors, especially the joy of paddling an undeveloped lake in a canoe and watching the wildlife. We spent many weekends enjoying such beauty together. I may have also gotten my love of cats from him as he has always enjoyed cats even though we never had any growing up due to mom's dislike of cats.

When my mom thinks about my dad, she often says, "He's a good man". When I left the park that morning, I left with a stronger sense of gratitude for my father, for his many sacrifices he made for my family's well-being, for his strength, his integrity, his strong work ethic and his dedication to the family. As I reflect on all of who my father is, I tend to agree with my mom, he is indeed a good man.

Here are some photos of my dad from over the years:

Senior Chief Petty Officer
Unwrapping a very large bird book, Christmas 1985
Taking pictures of birds on the Souhegan River, 1986
Camping at Umbagog Lake campground, NH, 1989
Sunset over Umbagog Lake, 1989


  1. I love this post. Places like this definitely make me aware of God. I can feel and hear Him. Thank you.

  2. I so enjoyed your jaunt and the photos and memories were terrific!

  3. Wonderful post, Phil. And no, I couldn't find the eagle. LOL.

    I've seen real life eagles only two times in my life: once in Cape Breton (one circling overhead), and then in Alaska, when my dad took me on the cruise. Lots of eagles spotted then!

  4. so beautiful, I'm glad you were able to finally see the eagle.

    While many people search out God in the grandeur of the great outdoors, I often find Him in the minutia of every day. The small tiny weed of a flower growing on the side of the road, the inch worm, a dandelion. It is so easy to see those things as nuisance, but each one has a purpose and a place and it really is amazing how they all fit together..

  5. Your Dad sounds just like my Dad.
    Since moving to the country I see...really SEE and feel things I didn't in town.This is where I feel God most. He shows Himself through my environment...the inter connection between every living thing.
    Perhaps the story of you looking for the eagle is like your trying to find God...you've been looking too hard,but when the time was right you saw.
    Jane x

  6. I found the eagle but can see how it would not stand out very well. My Dad was also a very big nature lover, showing me frogs, snakes and anything he found while out doing yard work and explaining all about them. While out in nature you never know what will come up and for you it seems like it was your father. Thanks for sharing.

    cats of wildcat woods

  7. You have made my night. Yes, you have,

  8. You told story to me who is a daddy's fury son. I just overwhelm ! Till I guess I can't see your eagle ...I think I must use my laser eyes and have a look again!...tee...heh

  9. I'm glad you got to see the eagle. They are truly majestic birds. And thanks for sharing about your father - you are very fortunate to have had such a good man for a father.

    Debby in Arizona

    Pet lovers please check out my homeless cat blog archives for some informative posts and stories about the cat abandoned/feral colony I manage.


    Talk to Your Angels and Pets

  10. Neither The Human nor I have ever seed an eagle, but now we feel like we kinda saw this one! ;-) We love your story.


Thanks for sending in your comments!