The Return

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Guess what came back?” my husband said after work the other day.

Hmm, I thought. The mouse in the attic? No, the Havahart trap took care of that. The poison ivy he couldn’t get rid of last summer? No, it’s February. The deli that closed around the corner? No, the owners moved to Florida.

“The eagle,” he answered. “She’s returned.”

Last March, when the pandemic struck and life seemed so uncertain, a sign of hope emerged in this majestic bald eagle that built her nest in a towering pine tree outside my husband’s office. He and his colleagues watched her daily, as she went about gathering brush and preparing her home, just as we all gathered and prepared for the unknown we were about to face. When Patrick transitioned to remote work, he lost track of the eagle’s progress after the eggs hatched but gave us updates on occasional sightings when he stopped back in. Once summer and then autumn arrived, the eaglets had fledged, and the mother had left to hunt the inlets of Southport Harbor and settle elsewhere. Until now.

Throughout this ongoing cycle of monotony that we have endured, another cycle has flourished around us. Of course, the eagle would return, I thought. Spring approaches. She’s ready to gather, prepare, and start again. And so are we. It’s time to come back. As the eagle soars with branches in her beak and the tips of tiny crocuses peek through leftover snow, so begins the return, albeit slowly, of the lives we so dearly miss. Even as the ashes were sprinkled over my head on Ash Wednesday, I felt that our priest’s words of “Remember you are dust and to dust you will return” had a renewed meaning, as we recalled quarantining in the midst of Lent a year ago. Our own preparation for Easter as well has begun again.

When I wrote about first seeing this eagle last March, at a time when we all needed the hope and beauty it represented, I titled the piece “Waiting Patiently.” And here we are now, still needing hope and beauty, and still waiting, though maybe not quite so patiently. I want to see my brothers in person, not on Zoom. I want to embrace my friends and forego the elbow bumps. I want to chat with my students face to face – literally. I want the world to emerge from this monotony with good health and a joyful spirit. But the eagle didn’t rush the construction of its nest, my husband reminded me. I know, I sighed. I know.

Though the crocuses remain beneath the snow and the smiles remain behind the masks, we do know that they remain and, like the eagle, will return.