Long ago, when Ilene Dube asked me to create a Princeton Packet Blog on nature, she particularly asked me to include some of my poems. In Cool Women readings over the years, “Visitation” was a favorite.
It was written, frankly, to a very vivid vision. You can tell from the tactile descriptions how supremely real this scene was to me.
It was years ago, and wintertime, when eagles court and nest, as they are now, all over our state.
At the time, there were no Princeton eagles. But, within weeks of this vision, I came upon ‘our’ female, on a tree near the end of the sculling race venue on Carnegie Lake. How serene she was, awaiting her true love. How peacefully, majestically he soared around that point, float-coasting onto a tree not too near. It was as though she had always known he would arrive.
It was January 3rd, my real sighting. My dear friend Janet Black’s (one of the Intrepids) birthday. The sun was going down, but the curtain was rising on the courtship of the male and female bald eagle who would then begin, successfully, to raise and to fledge young, each year on the shores of our fake but essential lake..
As dusk triumphed over the January daylight, for the first time in my life, I heard the eagles, ‘our’ eagles, singing love songs. I was very aware that this courtship meant that our waterway had been preserved and healed enough to nourish eagle generations.
But “Visitation” is not a hopeful poem. Published in Cool Women, it is my own song of despair over habitat despoilation.
But, sometimes, despair can be conquered by life itself.
Brenda Jones, fine art photographer, has given me great gifts of bird images over the years. I send you her eagles, ‘our’ eagles, to remind you, as Brenda and her husband, Cliff would do, to support your local land trust; to save land and water in New Jersey every chance you get.
Because saving land is saving habitat.
Because saving land is saving huge swathes to absorb CO2 and slow catastrophic climate change.
Because eagles, frankly, are essential.
Here is “Visitation”, after whose writing, despair turned to delight:
I finally reach
a windy crest
my turquoise jacket
spring’s late chill
I feel more than see
the eagle settle
upon flat granite
to my right
he gulps that entire landscape
at one glance
so he can step determinedly
onto my padded sleeve
my eyes are not one inch
so gold, flickering
flames surrounding the dark centers
as coronas ring an eclipse
I have ever known
his dark shoulder feathers
stirring blue glints in sun
the air could not be more electric
if he were bearing
he rests his left cheek
against my own
inside my heart
small fists tattoo
within that rosy cage
to life without eagles
CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN