By Sister Maggie Beaudette, CSJ, Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada
The month of March has arrived, and it is the time I begin to watch for the bald eagle’s return to Hay River.
The earliest date I have seen one is March 9 and the latest has been March 28. Although I hear from others that the eagle is back, I wait to see my first sighting. I
live beside the Hay River, 10 kilometres from town and one kilometre off the highway. My location is away from traffic and provides a serene, peaceful atmosphere. I am blessed that the eagle sits in a tree in front of my deck, almost daily.
This week I visited with elder and former chief, Roy Fabian of Katl’odehche First Nations to talk about the eagle. The eagle is regarded with great respect.
In speaking with Roy Fabian, he shared with me how his father, Edward Fabian spoke of the eagle. Roy’s father spoke of the reverence and respect for the eagle. Since the eagle can fly so high, higher than any other bird, it is close to God. The eagle flies beside heaven and therefore is very close to the Creator.
My encounters with eagles have brought me joy, wonder, and awe.
The drive from Yellowknife to Fort Providence takes approximately three hours. Along the way, there are many small lakes and large ponds on either side of the road. By the month of April, the ice on these bodies of water has started to thaw. The area of ice gradually decreases as it melts and is surrounded with water.
As I was driving home, I came to one of these small ponds. Driving past it, I noticed a most beautiful sight. It was a very sunny day, the snow was dazzling white, with the water reflecting the sky. Right in the middle of the ice sat a huge bald eagle. The eagle was sitting as if it were soaking in the warmth of the sun. I slowed down, backed up my vehicle to appreciate this sighting. After a prayer of thanksgiving to the Creator, I continued my way, grateful once again for the beauty of creation that surrounds me daily.
Builders and Providers
Eagles mate for life and return to the same nest each spring.
On the “back road” in Hay River the eagles had a nest. Every spring I would visit the nest to see if the eagles had returned to it. Sometimes the nest needed a bit of repair after the winter. Then, the pair of eagles would be in or near the nest, soon sitting in the nest on eggs, and eventually, I would see one or two small heads in the nest with one parent. The other parent would be sitting in another tree keeping watch or sometimes flying to nearby Great Slave Lake to catch a fish.
I would visit the nest many times throughout the summer. If you have seen an eagle’s nest, have you wondered how they are made?
One winter the snowfall was very heavy and there was much wind. By the springtime, the nest had been destroyed by the elements of snow and wind. The eagles had returned and as I drove to the nest one Saturday morning, flying towards me, one of the eagles was carrying a very large stick, perfectly balanced in its talons. The eagle brought the huge stick to the top of the tree, which looked like a “Y” shape and manoeuvred the stick in place. This was the beginning of their new home.
A few days later, on the side of the road was a large pile of twigs and small branches. I wondered at this. Did the eagles prepare this pile? As the building of the nest progressed with large sticks, the pile of twigs disappeared becoming filling in between the larger sticks.
Blessing and Gratitude
A few years ago, I was in a time of discernment regarding a possible change in ministry and living situation.
After many months of discernment through prayer, guidance from a few individuals whom I trust and who know me well, the time was coming for an answer. I was conflicted with coming to a definite decision and I was aware of my deepest feelings about the situation. One of my “guides” suggested that I pray for clarity rather than for a definite answer.
It was late March and I had not yet seen an eagle, although I knew others in the community had seen them. My answer was needed April 1. As I sat in prayer, being open to a gift of clarity, I saw the eagle flying along the centre of the river. I was so grateful and thanked the Creator for its safe return.
A few minutes later, the eagle turned and flew towards my house. There are three long, narrow windows in my living room which face the river. As the eagle flew closer, it was right at the middle window, flying over the house. This was most unusual. The eagle was huge and the white of its feathers were resplendent! It was as if it paused in flight before lifting over the house.
A sense of awe and amazement filled me, but also a deep sense of “all will be well.” What a gift, what a blessing!
“And He will raise you up on eagle’s wings, Bear you on the breath of dawn…” As I sing these words from the hymn On Eagle’s Wings (from Isaiah 40:31), they hold a deeper meaning for me, as I remember the words of Roy’s father about the closeness of the eagle to the Creator as it flies beside heaven.
And so, as the month of March begins, I will be watching for the return of the eagles.
As they return, I will know and be reminded of the faithfulness and care of the Creator for all creatures. I look forward with openness, anticipation, and expectation to be surprised with the lessons the eagle will teach me this season.
Mahsi, thank you Creator, for all the gifts You have given each of us. May we always walk humbly with respect, kindness, gratitude, and love for all of creation.
Sr. Maggie Beaudette, CSJ, has lived and served in the north for some 32 years, including the past 22 years in Hay River, NT, on the south shore of the Great Slave Lake in the Catholic Diocese of Mackenzie-Fort Smith. She is a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph in Canada.