The Times, aghast at the prospect of a Republican-controlled Congress, turns to divination. The Etruscans tried this, and where is Etruria today? The Romans picked it up (and later dropped it), and where is Rome … well, what’s the circulation of Il Messaggero?
One cold, gray day in February, in search of that one last bit of strength, I took a break. Family friends agreed to sit with my mom as she slept the day away, so I set aside guilt and got in the car and drove. Minnesota that winter morning was all steel sky. The pan-flat landscape slid by, farm after farm, an austere poetry in the scenery that seemed about right.
Anger was driving, its foot heavy on the gas, and my thoughts were boxed in tight and spinning. It took a while to banish my circular thinking with deep breaths, and feel unbound. And then, along one curving road lined with a particularly tall row of trees, something pulled at my gaze. Way up, against the somber sky, a bald eagle perched on a branch. It was a splendid creature, and not an animal I was privy to seeing often in my usual suburban world. It alone would have lifted my spirits.
But then, I saw a second one. And a third. It seemed for a little while that every time I looked up from the road (I’d slowed to a near crawl by then), a bald eagle appeared. One flapped its huge wings, circled around and landed in the next tree. Another preened, its head twisted impossibly far to get at feathers around its back. Still another fell from above like Tennyson’s famed thunderbolt.* Two others perched like statues, doing nothing in particular but looking spectacular.
There were, in total, nine bald eagles along that stretch of road. It was the ninth of February. And later, after I’d returned home and settled back on the couch next to the baby monitor broadcasting from her room, my mother took her last jagged breath. The quiet that followed knifed through me, but then came a sense of ease, of calm. The suffering was over.
* “The Eagle,” because you won’t find hyperlinks in the dead-trees Sunday Review.