Friday, August 7, 2009

Iditarod and Eagles

A few years ago, me and a couple of my buddies went up to Alaska to watch the Iditarod - The Greatest Race on Earth. There's nothing tougher, no sport anywhere on the planet, than the Iditarod. It's a dog race across the toughest terrain, in the toughest weather, over the longest distance (over a 1,000 miles), involving you - guy or girl - a sled - and a pack of dogs. You don't really 'watch' the Iditarod. Once they leave the starting line behind their dogs pulling the sleds, the mushers disappear for a week - into the wilderness. But watching them leave from downtown Anchorage is an adventure in itself. These athletes are as tough as they come and they have dogs that they love (they're love of dogs is breathtaking in itself). It's a great race in another way too: it combines the will of man with the will of his animals, at the mercy of the worst weather that nature has to offer. It's absolutely remarkable to see and try to understand the dynamics of what is going on, how they got here, the years of preparation and training.

So we sent off the mushers (about 60 of them) on the first Saturday in March. And waited for the results a week later (from Anchorage to Nome, best time wins).

Meanwhile, we went hunting for Eagles. Well, not hunting really, we wanted to catch a glimpse of eagles - somewhere - anywhere - in Alaska (no intentions to kill anything :). And we found them on a place called the 'spit' in Homer, Alaska. I think you only go to Homer if you're running from something - or to something. It's out there, its quiet and its cold. And beautiful.

That's when it got emotional. You know, some things you see are just fabulous, remarkable, stunning. (other things, you wish you had never seen, like a fat chick in a speedo or the plumber bent over to fix your leaking sink - you know what I mean?). All my life I had heard about the Bald Eagle, and how rare it would be to ever see one - and there they were - on parade for me. Flying over me, landing near me, looking for food, and enjoying the cold Alaska wind and snow gliding over their wings. We were all speechless and snapping pictures as fast as we could, thinking it would surly end any second. Like trying to take a picture of a shooting star or a mid-air catch at a football game, we clicked our cameras aimlessly and wrechlessly. And of course I wish I had taken more and had a better quality camera.

So I'm standing there, by a dock, on the 'spit' (not sure why they call it that - you can look it up), and there are 30-40 Bald Eagles flying around me. I could reach out and touch them. It was surreal.

Life is about those moments. Those times you can't explain in normal terms. You can't just say in a conversation, "hey, I went to Homer and saw Bald Eagles - lots of them - it was beautiful - have you ever seen them?" No, I've rarely brought that one up, its not worth it. It's too hard and unjust to even talk about - you can try, but its impossible to convey the feeling. But you want to do it again - just for you - see it again, experience it again, live that feeling again. It's not really important that anyone else 'gets it'.

If you've never had a moment like that - look for them now. It might be a sunset that only you see - only you can see that particularly reddish orange streak - just there on the left side, with the midnight blue sky peaking through. Maybe it's a horse standing in a pasture in the early morning, and the fog of his breath visible, he looks over at you - only you - and you make eye contact. Maybe it's a lonely little boy in a stroller, a tear in his eye, who needs a silent smile from you, at that moment, to give him hope, that someone cares.

Make yourself see it tomorrow. Everyday. See the miracles that God lays out in front of you. Act like the endangered species that you are. We can become like those eagles - when we act like eagles - aware, clear vision, looking and soaring, brave, fearless. Keep looking for those incredible moments.


SGT Malazzo said...

Awesome, i had this same experience but it was in King Salmon, Alaska on the tip of the peninsula. We were hiking and came to cliff and saw about a dozen bald eagle nests and they were flying all around us. Even more cool was when we came across over 200 walruses on one of the black beaches and in the distance in the water were passing whales. It was the most surreal site. I will show you pics later, I still have them

Scoty K said...

can't wait to see them - it really is hard to explain these things with words. have a good trip to Kuwait tomorrow morning! and see you state-side in about a week.

Doug Wickwire said...

Awesome post..... great writing and putting down some of the thoughts I have had but can't articulate....thanks

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