An Eagle Flies Alone

It used to be that there was a beautiful pair of bald eagles nearby that I would often observe. I loved watching them together, soaring in the breeze, playfully crossing paths with one another, swooping down on their prey with mighty force. The pair was truly something to behold – a force to be reckoned with.

Sadly, as of late, I have seen only one eagle where there used to be two, flying high in the sky above, issuing a loud, piercing cry as it soars the skies alone.

The fact that it flies alone is not lost on me. Its partner is no-where to be seen, and its loud, screeching cry reminds me of the sound my heart made in the days and weeks after my husband first passed away. My heart still cries out, but time has taught me acceptance, which has changed the tone and volume of the piercing cry.

Like the Eagle, I am very much alone. Every time I think I have found someone great to share my time with, it’s as though a vulture swoops down from the sky and snatches my prize away, flying off with my love and hope in the process. There is nothing as deflating as snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in the war of loneliness and self-existence.

Eagles mate for life. When one eagle passes on, the other continues to survive on its own. Point taken, universe. I will continue to chart out my own path and work towards my goals and dreams, regardless of how crazy other people find them to be. My time and attention will no longer be wasted on people that fail to see my value or offer respect.

Like the eagle, I will be flying alone for a long time.

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Birthday Remembrance

Deadlines.  We all have them, and for one reason or another, we have all missed at least one. Life happens. It can get in the way with overwhelming obligations and expectations placed upon us by other people. This week has been no exception for me. I try to have a new blog post every Tuesday, but for whatever reason, life got in the way this week.

This is a very hard week for me, and the weekend ahead will be challenging too. More snow and frigid temperatures are scheduled to hit my home state of Colorado, and I am dreading that. I have a mare that could give birth at any time, and as any horse owner will tell you, things like a full moon or bad weather will bring about the blessed event with the force of a freight train that has lost its brakes going downhill. But I digress. While the weather may create challenges for my weekend, something else is weighing heavily on my mind. Friday, March 1, is my late husband’s 51st birthday.

As my husband’s best friend has said numerous times, “We are the ones serving a life sentence because we have to live without him.” Those words ring true in my heart and my mind as I write this. I find myself bursting into tears at random times, and I keep hearing some of his favorite songs in my head. This is the third birthday of his I have had to celebrate – and I use that term loosely – without him, and it is not getting easier. If anything, this birthday is bothering me worse than the others, and I am not sure why. I cannot get him off my mind, and I cannot help but wonder what we would be doing to celebrate his birthday if he was still here. Not that we always had extravagant birthday celebrations, but we did try to do something special for one another.

As I was watching one of our horses buck and play in his paddock this morning, a horse that my husband was particularly fond of, Ichabod, I was reminded of one of the last trips we were able to take together on his birthday several years ago. We only had the weekend for a getaway, so we were pressed for time, which ruled out going anywhere extravagant or warm, like Hawaii, and we had a limited budget. We did agree that we wanted to get out of Colorado if it was possible, so we started looking online. After a quick search, we found affordable tickets to fly to Kentucky and boarded a plane shortly after work on a Thursday night.

You are probably asking yourself, “why in the world would anyone choose Kentucky the first of March?!” We chose it because it was an opportunity to take in live horse racing at Turfway Park in Florence, Kentucky, a track we had never been to before. We had made a pact a few months before to try to visit as many tracks in North America as we could, and this was as good of a place as any to start.

While Florence, Kentucky, may not be everyone’s idea of a dream weekend getaway, it was for us. The hospitality at our modest hotel exceeded our expectations. The kind people at the hotel had their shuttle take us to and from the track so we didn’t have to worry about driving, and the hotel manager was kind enough to help me surprise my husband with a bottle of champagne and some birthday carrot cake cupcakes in our room when we returned from the races.

We were able to take in one evening of races – something that was foreign to us since none of the tracks we go to offer racing at night – and 2 days of afternoon racing. Thanks to a wonderful family friend, we had a nice table in the horse owners’ section with seats near the finish line. It turned out to be an incredible experience. My husband was amazing at handicapping races, and this trip was no exception. His long shots were coming in, and we basically ended up eating and drinking at the races all weekend on his winnings. We shared so many laughs that my sides hurt, and I couldn’t stop smiling. It was one of the best trips we ever had, and quite frankly, it was one of the simplest and most relaxing.  

We returned to Colorado after our weekend feeling rejuvenated and refreshed. Our only regret was that we couldn’t stay in Kentucky longer, but as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. We were both back at work on Tuesday morning and normal life resumed.

I never dreamed I would be celebrating his birthday by myself. I wish I could go back in time to that particular birthday in Kentucky, as well as a few others, and enjoy our adventures again a second time. I would hold my husband tighter and laugh even more during our escapades. Those are the moments I miss the most.

Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way. There is no going back in time. Instead of enjoying life and celebrating, I find myself overwhelmed with grief and sadness, longing to hear his laugh again. Words cannot describe how much I miss him.

As I was walking from the barn to the house this morning, my heart was heavy and I had tears in my eyes as I thought of my husband. I caught movement out of the corner of my eye and turned to see a bald eagle, sitting in the field in the snow, its sharp eyes surveying its surroundings. I stopped and watched the magnificent bird for several minutes until it flew away, tears streaming down my cheeks. Hello, my husband! I immediately thought about how he used to tease me about my struggles to photograph bald eagles, and I found myself laughing through my tears.

I believe my husband is still with me. Like an eagle, he is watching from above.

Happy Birthday, My Love.

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My Unicorn, the Bald Eagle

Eagles are fascinating, powerful creatures that fly through my imagination and grasp the hands of time for me. When I see an eagle, its as though everything around me comes to a standstill except for the presence of the majestic bird I am blessed to be seeing.

As an amateur photographer, I spent years pursuing bald eagles, struggling to catch a glimpse let alone a decent photograph. It is a well-known fact that I have the world’s largest collection of blurry eagle photographs known to man. This is rather pathetic when you consider the fact that I live within ten miles of one of the largest bald eagle nesting grounds within the state of Colorado.

The fact that I could never capture a decent photograph of an eagle was not lost on my late husband. He used to laugh at my antics and adventures to photograph the ever-elusive eagle. One incident will forever stand out in my mind.

It was a particularly blustery day in Brighton, Colorado. I happened to have a day off from work in the middle of the week, and I was determined to make the most of it. I laced up my hiking boots, grabbed my coat and camera, and headed to Barr Lake in pursuit of the elusive bald eagle. I was determined that this would be the day my quest for an eagle picture would end.

Barr Lake is a small lake situated not far off Interstate 76. There is an 8.8-mile trail that circles the lake, and there are some nice spots along the way that are ideal for bird watching. And, Barr Lake is known as one of the largest eagle nesting grounds in Colorado.

My hike around the lake began in a rather non-descript manner. I noticed a few sparrows and pigeons as I set out and nothing more for what seemed like a rather long time. Not exactly the bird watching adventure I had been hoping for. Finally, a small gaggle of Canadian Geese came across my path, and eventually, a Northern Flicker Woodpecker. Things were looking up! My hopes soared as I looked to the sky and could see an eagle soaring in the distance. It was too far away to photograph, but there was no mistaking its magnificent wing span as it soared high above.

I continued walking. My feet were starting to twinge with a bit of pain. Unfortunately, my hiking boots were relatively new, and my feet were starting to feel it. “Carry on!” I told myself. I was so determined to photograph an eagle that pain be damned! This pursuit was ending today.

After walking for endless miles, or at least what felt like it, I arrived at the area where eagles could be seen and photographed. Allegedly. I had arrived at the area where a pair of bald eagles are known to nest, but naturally, the nest was empty and camping out there for 2 hours produced no results.

My quest to photograph an eagle was, in fact, a rather miserable experience in the end. The weather gradually deteriorated; the cold wind whipped my face. Dirt found its way into my contact lenses, and my feet were beyond painful. I had blisters above my big toe on both feet as well as my heels, and the bottom of both feet were screaming in agony. Defeated, I finally made my way back to my car and put my camera back in its case. I placed my camera behind the driver’s seat and headed home, blasting the heater as I drove.

As I pulled into my drive way, I couldn’t believe my eyes. There, perched on a fence post in my yard, was the most spectacular bald eagle I had ever seen! At that moment, a string of expletives was going through my mind, many of which I cannot write down here. Let’s suffice it to say that my frustration and disbelief was at an all time high. Nothing like marching around an eagle nesting area to no avail, only to have one show up in your own yard!

By the time I got out of my car, got my camera out of its case and attached the action lens, the eagle was in the air, flying away at rapid speed. My hands were shaking, and I was fumbling with my camera. This was it! My opportunity to get the picture I had been longing for all day! I zoomed in on the magnificent bird as much as I could. I was snapping pictures furiously, praying to get a decent shot. It was not meant to be. I managed to capture another series of “blurry eagle at a distance” pictures.

After this incident, my husband declared the Bald Eagle to be my unicorn, the mythical creature that could never be captured. And my husband loved to joke about it! He never failed to remind me of my quest for eagles and some of the funny adventures that ensued as part of this pursuit.

When I see an eagle, I always think of my husband and often find myself saying hello. My husband is much like an eagle to me now; elusive but ever present. Like an eagle, he is soaring free, released from the binds, ties, pressures, and struggles of every day life that we all endure daily. He may not be here physically, but he is definitely present.

Sandy

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