I hope that this past month has been a good one for you.
I spent the first weeks of this month preparing for a trip to Colorado to observe and celebrate my son’s college graduation – a watershed moment in a young adult’s life as there ever could be, I suppose, since I have not accomplished what Evan has. His mother would be very proud of him.
The trip was enjoyable for its core purpose, and some interesting waypoints found along the way – places like Pueblo, Dodge City, and an impressive antique mall in a place that touts itself “Midway U.S.A.“. I have to learn to share more of the driving – it wore on me, and in turn it wore on Leslie. I still enjoy the road (or the rails) over the skies.
During the first few days of May, Leslie and I were sitting on the front porch steps, watching raptors and carrion birds make their usual rounds over the wooded hillside that separates the bulk of Leetsdale proper from the houses that spread off of Camp Meeting Road as it winds upward into Leet Township.
One bird stood out from the rest – a Bald Eagle, possibly from the nest across the river in Crescent Township, one of three documented nests in Allegheny County that have also seen considerable activity in producing offspring. The eagle appeared to be clutching some type of prey in its talons – something gray, perhaps a rodent – food for the family.
There has been a groundswell of local interest in Bald Eagles and their offspring, thanks in part to the considerable efforts of the Pennsylvania Game Commission and other stakeholders to provide 24/7 streaming video of the nest in the Hays section of Pittsburgh. There are numerous other wildlife cameras in the Pittsburgh area as well.
There are three fledglings in that nest this year – the progression of their existence, from appearing as eggs to hatching, being kept warm and safe by the female, and now seemingly in the nest largely alone while Mom and Dad are out hunting, has been a video saga that eclipses most soap operas or inane reality shows. And as with any good TV show, there are highlights available.
A recent Post-Gazette story tried to provide some understanding about the habits and risks of life as a Pittsburgh eagle, and did so rather well.
With the popularity of the eagles’ adventures online, combined with their symbolism in the national consciousness, I keep drawing them close when thinking about the grand adventure that is (or should be) raising a child in today’s society.
To be honest, Evan populates a nest not of his own creation, one that he will presumably fly away from someday. I’m hoping that he will continue to challenge himself in what is already a challenging career path and job market. Journalism is a field in the midst of more dynamic change than others. I feel as if he’s got the skills and the mindset to make it wherever he wants to, on his own terms. I’m looking forward to see his progress, however tentative those first “flights” may be.
Like any parent, I worry about negative influences, unforeseen pitfalls, the spontaneous hits that life often provides. I do Evan a disservice, however, if I jump in at every small indication of a problem. Like those fledglings, he may have to fend off a predator, be prepared to weather the storm, get ready to fly away, find a partner, and make his own nest.
As parents, Leslie and I watch with reserved trepidation the approach that many of this generation may take toward the manner in which we will exist as a society and a nation. The Bald Eagle found dead this month near a popular nest in the Poconos, killed by feeding on the carcass of a euthanized animal that was perhaps discarded in woods or incompletely buried in someone’s backyard, speaks to the carelessness with which we as a society treat our surroundings, not thinking about the potential effects of a seemingly routine action.
These, along with an unhealthy focus on skewing our own human environment with mind-altering substances, remain items of great concern to the national consciousness.
Of equal and growing concern is the toxicity within the human mind that facilitates a self-righteous rationalization for severe hatred and extreme acts of violence. The male that perpetrated the mass shooting in Isla Vista, California last week left footprints, digital and otherwise, for others to follow into some very dark places. An editor at Salon tried to place a name to the phenomenon – “Toxic Male Entitlement”. This editor, Katie McDonough, went further –
Just as we examine our culture of guns once again in the wake of yet another mass shooting, we must also examine our culture of misogyny and toxic masculinity, which devalues both women’s and men’s lives and worth, and inflicts real and daily harm.
A rather different approach was taken by Mark Manson, who describes himself as teaching “a reality-based form of self-development, as investigated through a deep understanding of psychology and culture”. His expansive post on the subject of recent mass shooters takes the media to task, in part for enabling those with a varying social agenda, i.e. gun control, violence against women, and improved access to mental health care to dominate public discourse about the issue.
While these are all factors worthy of discussion and consideration, I agree with Mr. Manson that other, more important concerns are being drowned out in the process:
Here’s what doesn’t get the headlines: Empathy. Listening to those around you. Even if you don’t like them very much.
Along with the need to empathize, all of us, including and especially this latest edition of the generation of the delusionally invincible, need a dose of humility in our lives.
Where that comes from – whatever deity, tradition, or belief system from which it may originate – is up to you. Choose wisely.
There are many examples of how the eagle symbolizes this and other positive life approaches across culture, mythology, and religion. For those of us that embrace Christian traditions and beliefs, there are two familiar passages from scripture that illustrate this:
‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession’. – Exodus 19:4-5 (NIV)
Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. – Isaiah 40:28-31 (KJV)
Our return from Colorado has presented us with the realization that new and additional challenges are on the horizon – challenges related to adults in middle age with young adult children and aging parents. More watershed moments are likely in the offing.
The past month combined many different emotional responses to a lot of different things going on. In the midst of all of these, and whatever may happen in the coming months and years, the spirit of both nurturing love and self-reliance present in the eagles of Pittsburgh will hopefully serve as guideposts for all of us as we face life head-on.
Have a blessed month and summer ahead.