On the way to my triathlon last weekend I could see up ahead that there was an animal carcus in the middle of the road. Cars were swerving a bit and a bird was doing his best to swoop down, grab a bite and swoop up before the next vehicle came by.
The bird was large, so I assumed that it was a hawk and not a crow, until I got even closer and realized that this huge bird was a bald eagle. I almost wrecked because: A) I’ve never seen a bald eagle out in the wild and B) It was gigantic and when it swooped down in front of my car it scared the crap out of me.
The next day my friends told me that on the bike route of the triathlon there was a dead bald eagle on the side of the road that they had to negotiate around. Since they were in the middle of a race, they couldn’t stop and look at it, but they all commented on how odd it was to see an eagle up close rather than in a zoo or a documentary.
The bald eagle was chosen by our founding fathers to represent the United States because it was a quintessential American animal and they felt that it represented strength, courage, immortality and freedom. Back then there were an estimated 25,000 – 50,000 eagles in existence in the U.S., but by 1963 there were only about 413 breeding pairs left due to hunting, habitat destruction and contamination of it’s food source. In 1972 the government banned the use of the pesticide DDT and the eagle was placed on the endangered species list where it stayed until last June when it was officially removed.
As our economic news gets gloomier each day it is as if our way of life is becoming endangered. I have a sneaking suspicion that like that eagle, I’m going to be swooping down between cars trying to get a scrap and at risk of becoming a chalk line drawing on the side of the road. Also, I’ve got to be honest – I was a little embarrassed for the eagle I saw. In my mind, such a dignified creature sits atop the closest tree and picks off fish or other waterfowl without much effort. To see such a majestic bird transformed into a vulture, playing chicken with an eighteen wheeler to get a scrap was a little sad. But truth be told, now that he’s off the endangered list his habitat isn’t protected anymore and he’ll need to fend for himself which puts him at risk of being flattened by a SUV.
The beauty of nature is that only those that adapt will survive. I can’t help but wonder if the modern day eagle is a metaphor for this country. We’re going to have to adapt and change the way that we do things if we’re going to come out the other side. We’re going to need new and creative solutions for old problems and honestly, be okay with losing a little dignity in the process.