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A PROFOUND BELIEF IN MYSTERY

by Ellie Ienatsch, HUPC Founding Member

We often make judgments about the natural world which turn out to be false. We try to explain the dance and rhythm of wild creatures and wild lands within the framework of our human world, and it doesn't work. Let me illustrate.

My passion is watching golden eagles, an obsession I've had for 20 years. One spring recently, I was taking infinite pleasure in watching a baby golden eagle grow. I had found a spot on a ridge above the nest, far enough away not to bother the birds, where I could go daily and watch eagle activity through my spotting scope. My journal, it turns out, is a leapfrog progression of false assumptions.

Take May 31, for example. On the previous day, the baby eagle ? which resembled a fuzzy white bowling pin with huge feet ? had been happily bouncing about in the nest. Now on May 31, the baby was dead. There it was, lying motionless in the middle of the nest, a formless white blob spread out grotesquely in all directions. For an hour, I did not take my eye off the scope. An hour and a half. Two hours. In grief and disbelief, I moved to pack up my things. Suddenly up from the white blob came a huge yellow beak, then a head, and finally the baby got it all together, got its big feet underneath, and began wobbling about as happily as it had the day before.

Then there was June 29. The young eagle was now almost an adult. He sat, regal and dark, as large as his parents, on the edge of the nest and watched me set up my scope. What I saw when I looked through it filled me with horror. The back of the eagle's head and his neck were completely bald. The feathers were gone. What awful disease had invaded the nest? For eleven days after that there was no change. The baby was alive, but I was convinced it was suffering from a mite infection that could take his life.

On July 12, I again dragged myself up the mountain. As I set up my scope, I could tell that the baby was still alive, but at that distance I could not determine more than that. I looked through the eye piece. There looking back at me was the most beautiful golden eagle I had ever seen! The bald head and neck of yesterday were now completely covered with the elegant tawny feathers that give the golden eagle its name.

The rhythm and dance of the natural world are beyond our understanding. Their pace is, at one and the same time, infinitely slow yet instantaneous. We have forgotten how to move with it. It has something to do, I think, with patience and a profound belief in mystery.


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