Encounter with an icon
As we got closer to the landfill, we could see multitudes of scavengers circling the mountain of refuse below them. Ravens, seagulls, and other bird species soared above us, their sharp ocular skills fine tuned and prepared to guide them downward where they would masterfully snatch each edible morsel without hesitation.
We climbed upward on a moderately winding road that boasted a rather loose, netlike border just to the left. On the opposite side of this road, low piles of garbage bags in every imaginable hue spilled out past an imaginary border, boldly reaching beyond the fringes of confinement.
Just before we reached the plateau sat an American bald eagle, his regal head semi-buried in the rubble surrounding him. It was immediately evident that the other food seekers were intimidated and reluctant to intrude upon the eagle’s spoils. With unexpected grace, the eagle took flight, soaring above us with the usual elegance expected of an American icon.
I sat there in our vehicle, my right hand unconsciously holding onto the door handle for emotional stability. An American bald eagle in a landfill, dining on discarded and most likely spoiled and rotten food? Burrowing his regal, curved beak into discarded cardboard cartons and tin cans for a morsel of food? To me, it was simply unimaginable and somehow heart-wrenching.
We continued upward, searching for the spot to abandon bags of freshly raked leaves, our eyes never looking past the eagle. He continued to glide above us, landing from one spot to another as he foraged for food. There in the area where we were to discard our leaves, a gentleman operated a bulldozer with an American flag. The contrast between the eagle and Old Glory and the landfill itself was profound. I must say that I have such admiration for those who work in the sanitation industry, whatever that may encompass. I do not have the physical stamina, nor the mindset to perform such an important and vital role in our world.
Our world, as we know it, has recently been turned upside down. In great effort to return to some sort of normalcy, we are slowly attempting to put the turmoil in its place, never forgetting its potency. We can never change history, but we can move on with dignity. We are not going to bury our mistakes, but we can surpass them and revive that pride and determination. We can recognize our vulnerability, just as the eagle searches for nourishment in whatever form that may take. We can climb past the errors, strive to heal, and make the best of what we have remaining. Yes, there will be spillage from time to time, but we can put it in its place and continue on, just as the gentleman with the bulldozer and the American flag — a flag that continues to fly, despite adversity.
We drove back down the winding road, our leaves in their proper space atop the landfill. We did not see the eagle again until we reached the bottom and as we passed through the exit, I caught a glimpse of that splendid bird climbing higher and higher into a flawless blue sky.
Please remember to be kind and let us remember to take care of ourselves and each other.
Belinda Ouellette lives in Caribou with her Goldendoodle, Barney. You may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.