‘Hope is a thing with feathers’. Dr. Howl shares parallel worlds in his latest lockdown piece

The nest is empty now, its wide platform of sticks and leaves vacant, bare of feather, talon and beak; around the sides and in the middle a few bones remain, the discarded lives of mice, moles, something larger, growing brittle and white under the mid-summer sun. 

I started following the Decorah Eagle’s nature cam in early March – remember life back then? A time of Covid fears—uncertainty growing like the numbers infected—businesses shuttered, travel plans cancelled, the world moving inward, the future unknown. 

In these anxious times finding the website was a ‘beautiful discovery’, its peep into the live world of two nesting American bald-eagles offering up respite from my outside world. There, on the centre of my computer screen, sat a tall and stoic eagle, attentive and alive, sheltering three eggs beneath its puffed out chest. Something solid and firm, with focus and a clear mission. Too easily I was hooked. 

Over the next three months, from March to now, my life has followed two parallel paths. One a pandemic journey, the virus blasting through Italy and Spain—in Washington, the ‘powers that be’ denying and gargling blench— New Zealand in lockdown, Britain differing. The other an eyrir-world with two clear tasks at hand: hatching and raising three eagle chicks.

The first few weeks were the time of the eggs, the eagle pair taking it in turn to keep the three white ovals warm and dry. Back in my Covid world I was storing up food, converting currency into small nominations, and working with a district governor to setup an emergency clinic, the pair of us pondering where we might store the bodies. 

In mid-April the eggs gave way to chicks, the cam showing three balls of fragile and sleepy fluff one mid-week morning, the hatchlings looking small and naked amongst the sticks and detritus of their tree-top home. 

In my parallel world Khmer friends, jobless for two months, wondered how they would repay their micro-loans whilst, across at the temples where their ancestors once stood, the grounds were eerily quiet – Angkor reclaimed by a spirit of stillness. 

By late May the three eaglets—they had all survived—were looking much stronger; acting like preening teenagers, tired of the nest and wanting to break free; but novices to flight, unable to do so. 

Until last week that is when, after a few days away I clicked on the eagle site wondering, as the Mac wheel spun around, what I might find. The answer: nothing! Not a bird in sight. My eagles had flown.

My feelings? Firstly sad and disappointed but then something else, a measure of relief and joy that the eggs of March had endured; and that the seeds they once held were now soaring over the plains and hills of Iowa, terrorizing rodents, rabbits, voles and whatever else befalls their keen raptor eye. 

Meanwhile back in my native Aotearoa June has brought a different relief; a semblance of normality returning inside the nation’s borders. People are standing next to each other and shaking hands without fear; touching, hugging and kissing (not too much of the latter, it is still a country of emotional restraint). 

This weekend rugby will return to the nation’s stadiums; crowds once again assembling before stages of grass and dramas of strength and agility. I imagine that the grounds will be full, each game—in a very Kiwi way—a celebration of having passed through the Covid eye. 

And just this once I wish I could be there. 

So in this moment I feel happiness and gladness for my birth place and the eagles of Decorah. And to those here to read this, I am glad for you too. 

Kia haumaru

Dr. Howl