So, Spirit is just that. After a long week of seizures and unresponsive lethargy, she’s moved on. Lots of e-mails back and forth among volunteers and friends; here was my final note on the subject:
What will happen with Spirit’s remains? Will she go to the National Eagle Repository in Denver? This isn’t really just morbid curiosity on my part; I’m remembering what happened when we had an eagle die at Lincoln Park Zoo and some were comforted by the knowledge that, in a way, a celebration of that creature’s life would go on, quite literally.
For my part, I was crushed yesterday when I got Gabe’s not unexpected and beautifully wrought two line e-mail. I was teaching a whole day workshop so I wasn’t in a position to just cut loose with tears. Last night we had Chicago guests from the moment I arrived home, but by the time I had a couple glasses of wine over dinner, I found myself talking about my relatively brief (18 month) love affair with Spirit. I told them about the first time I cleaned her mews, warily crouching and scooting around, pooper scooper in hand, thinking, “damn. That’s a big bird sitting up there.” When she hopped down next to me as I got near her bath tub, I think the ground shook. I went absolutely still and thought, “okay, she’s not going to hurt me, that kindly professor guy wouldn’t send me in here to get mauled…” as Spirit and I eyeballed each other from a level distance of less than 3 feet. I slowly and cautiously reached to pull the plug on her tub and she threw back her head and let go with that enormous warbling shriek and that was quite nearly the end of my volunteering at Boyd Hill. Instead of fleeing, I stayed where I was and told her a bit about myself. She indicated I should stop chattering, just fill the tub and get the beef heart.
From then on she never failed to greet me, as she did with so many of us. I always knew when Melissa, Nancy, Cindy or Gabe were around because I could overhear her conversations with them from the other end of the aviary, where I often start with the ESOs. About three weeks after I started working at Boyd we had a raptor behavior expert in to give a talk and as we followed him around Spirit called out and he pointed out, with great authority, that that was her call of alarm and agitation. Since I was the newbie on the block I didn’t say, “That’s total BS” but I did think it.
Spirit was a captive bird and she acted, in lots of ways, like a captive bird. She had behaviors that were tied to our interactions with her and for me, that made it all the easier to think about her with some of the same love and affection I have for my pets at home. With her great expressions and whacky hop, she was an easy target for anthropomorphism. For all I know, she merely hailed me as the hand that fed or delivered fresh water (her favorite). Maybe she liked my white hair. Added to that was her stature and beauty and now I think how truly fortunate I’ve been to get to know her. How many of us are blessed with the opportunity to scoop poop and whap dead mullet down for such a magnificent creature? Seriously, I feel as though knowing Spirit has been one of life’s better blessings.
Since her surgery and particularly the one day I was in the trailer while she was still crated and we were wrestling her to give her meds, I’d been thinking how really crummy her life had become, really fast. She looked ratty and dirty, scared and anxious. I was so happy the day she went out to the little enclosure and even perched only 8 inches off the ground, she looked immediately better and it seemed as though there might be a happy outcome after all. Today, I’m really okay that she’s gone, no longer captive or confused or in pain. I’m miserable over my loss but happy for her. Our Chicago friends want to visit Boyd Hill today and see the birds I talk about all the time and send pictures of in e-mails. I’m bracing myself for some more sorrow but still, counting my blessings. How lucky were we all- Spirit and her friends and caretakers at Boyd Hill- to have known each other? Cheers, Vicki
The answer to the question about her remains is that she will indeed go to the Federal Bald and Golden eagle repository in Ft. Collins, CO. Her feathers will adorn the ceremonial dress of any number of Native American groups so she will live on in a physical presence and in the spirit of those who are truly the people of our earth. I was down at Boyd Hill yesterday with our neighbors from up north and we visited with the raptors and then went over to the marsh boardwalk and draped over the railing, quietly taking in the sun. There were lots of baby gators also basking, along the shore and out on low lying limbs. We usually say a foot a year, so there were 1st, 2nd and 3rd year babies about, with 10 foot mum keeping track in a comatose sort of way. Those big ones never move until they move so I took a moment to admonish a couple of hooligans who were thinking it might be a good idea to whap her on the nose with a long stick.
And so it goes. I’m really very sad and sorry for myself but trying to think about this in some Native American cycle-of-life sort of way. That’s only working so well.
All the leaves are falling off the trees here in St. Petersburg so that means it’s Spring. Go figure. I haven’t made my daily call to Asheville yet to find out how building is progressing but I’m hoping warming temps make for more progress. Here’s wishing you a hint of Spring as your week begins.