I thought about the passage of time during my morning run along the Delaware River. I watched the river flow—strong and swift, wide and black. The breath of morning matched my breath with a hiss of steam under an opaque sky. I encouraged myself to take in the freshness of this moment.
And that is when I spotted the bald eagle. I skidded to a halt on the fine gravel path. Perched within an arm’s reach above my head, its long yellow talons curled around the barren branch of a dead elm. I am not sure which one of us saw the other first. Most likely, the eagle. He was relaxed and sure-footed, taking me in with a fixed gaze.
I whispered aloud, “Please do not go.” Let me see for a moment longer what some may never see in a lifetime. I inched closer. He cocked his alabaster head as if to say, You, you broke the spell. You crossed the line. Then, with a mighty lift of his mammoth wings, he stood and leaped, soaring skyward, following the dark swirls of current below.
Again and again, loss has taught me to slow down. To run lightly through this world of impermanence. To expect the long gaze of the sun’s warmth to fall behind the trees and dip out of sight, leaving a shiver of gloom. I am still me, but I am smudged rather than outlined. I have softened toward the day with my husband’s morning embrace.
The giddy pounce of my chocolate lab Bruce, two outstretched paws perched on the side of my bed–eyes imploring, eyes reminding me what is love, what is rich. My two children, now almost grown, weave in and out of my day as fledglings flounder from their nests—tentative at first, then with each consecutive departure, spanning out beyond the perimeters, farther and farther.
Today, I remind myself. Take in the moment of someone else’s little ones running through the leaves, cherub-cheeked and sticky-fingered. Take in the gray-bearded dog with a gait as slow as its owner. Take in the solitary veteran, sipping coffee on the park bench—his wife three years gone. Take in the sleepy mist rising off the river at dawn, then stop and look to the sky.
Look closely. Take it in.
Looking for more? Check out these great works by MockingOwl contributors and staff.
- Pangolin Love – Contemplative nonfiction
- Morning Tea on the Patio – One more way to slow down
- Perspective – Poetry
Jennifer E. Shields
Jennifer Shields is a licensed professional counselor and writer living in Red Bank, New Jersey. In her private practice, she co-creates stories of trauma and grief into stories of triumph and perseverance. When she is not working, she can be found hiking in the woods with her dogs, watching re-runs of Dark Shadows, and pestering her teens for their well-curated playlists. She is a writing instructor at Project Write Now and currently working on a full-length memoir.