By Paul C. Binotto
I believe Bald Eagles eggs hold more than baby eagles. That there’s also room enough inside for new hope.
Hope for the species itself. The parents-to-be would have hope, too, if they were capable of reason, and not solely creatures of instinct. But also, hope for the only creatures who can perceive it – humans.
The eagle mates who faithfully traded shifts sitting on eggs in Februarys of centuries past, had no more or no less hope than do today’s eagles, that their chicks would hatch. Their broad wooden nests, high atop girders of branches of the towering birch and oak trees lining the steep hillsides overlooked Pittsburgh’s Monongahela, Allegheny, and Ohio Rivers.
The steel mills that were growing up all around them on the river plains below, didn’t portend in the birds any sense of the advancing plague upon the land.
They couldn’t foresee any danger in the shadows of the tall smokestacks that darkened the surface of the waters where they fished, in the same manner as the thousands of tree trunks.
The eagles perceived nothing ominous in the dense belching smoke that seemed to sprout out of the tops of the stacks like the broad canopies that formed the tops of the native hardwoods where their babes hatched and grew; nor in the noonday skies where they soared, darkened by the smoke as by the rainclouds that would empty themselves out to refill and refresh the river ecosystem every spring and fall.
They couldn’t know that those life-giving rains would first pass through the thick smoke and bring down to the earth with it a deadly acid; and bathe the basin in poison. Or that the harsh chemicals would slowly travel upwards again, through the food-chain and eventually cause their eggshells to be too thin for their task.
And today’s Bald Eagles can’t reflect on the irony that many of the bark-less logs and branches they collect from the forest floor to make their nests likely are the preserved fossils of a poisoned past.
Eagles can’t know the source of the harm that drove them away or feel the succor of hope that brought them back. They can only follow their instincts to come and go. Humans knew but did nothing. Not until long after the eagles disappeared; not until the steel mills disappeared, along with their jobs.
But with hope and faith, a lot of hard work, and a lot of luck, they rebuilt a new economy that not only brought back the jobs, but also brought back the Bald Eagles to rebuild their nests.
After a year that seemed seasoned with nothing but winter; a paralyzing pandemic casting its death shroud over the world. And of the drowning of civility and good will, victims to the torrents of acid rains of the political fallout that flooded the United States.
I turned to higher places to make sense of it. And I found Bald Eagle eggs, filled with fresh hope for rebuilding.