Tuesday, September 17, 2019
Nature is not cruel
I didn't even try to take a picture of the eagle that swooped in front of our pickup truck.
It was early morning Saturday. I had planned to hike the road before breakfast. But Ben, who took it upon himself to whip up breakfast, announced there were no eggs. Which made preparing his menu of pancakes and eggs problematic. The solution was to go into town, but he was a newcomer—from New Jersey—and wasn't quite sure where it was. Hoping to go on my walk, I at first tried explaining. I tried calling up a map on the phone—in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan the Internet can be a work in progress. I got a white space with a line on it.
"I'll go with you," I gamely said. He said it wasn't necessary, which only steeled my resolve.
"If you go alone, you'll never get back," I said. We got into the truck and rumbled down the long, long drive, firs and oaks and ferns flashing green past us on both sides.
As we turned onto the road, the eagle zoomed up from the shoulder and flapped its wings in slow, powerful beats just ahead of the car.
"Keep up with it," I urged Ben, and we did, for 10 glorious seconds before the eagle peeled off. I considered the bird's appearance as a kind of cosmic reward, for my going along as navigator.
I've seen eagles up here before, in the same place, leading us up the road. Icing on the cake to what had already been a memorable trip, bird-wise: I spotted a pair of wild turkeys on our way in. I've never seen a wild turkey that wasn't capitalized and in a glass with ice.
The trip to the store in Ontonagon was uneventful, except for the guy behind us in line who excitedly announced there was drag-racing going on, right now, at some fairgrounds nearby. I think he expected us to thump our kneecaps and exclaim, "Well, tarnation, let's GO!" And to be honest, the thought did cross my mind. But there were eggs to ferry back, pancakes to eat and friends awaiting.
Afterward—almond-flavored pancakes, who knew?—I had my walk. There, by the side of the road, just where we had encountered the eagle, was a smear of feathers about 10 yards long. Obviously, we had interrupted its breakfast, though it must have made off with it—there were no remains, and I never saw the beak of the eagle, only its hind end.
I almost drew a connection between the nobility of the eagle—a hunter, a predator—and the cruelty of nature. But that isn't true, only an interpretation that humanity assigns to it, in our constant effort to get everything to reflect our own precious selves. Nature is not cruel. Nature just is.