A few years back, Lucky and I lived in a semi-arid desert region of British Columbia, Canada called the Okanagan Valley. One day on a little hike, this great big bird started circling around us. At first I wasn’t sure what to think. I was still new to the area and didn’t know what kind of bird it was or if it might be aggressive. I liked to think Lucky is a solid gauge of dangerous wildlife but in all the years we’ve been on adventures together he’s never shown apprehension towards … anything really, so I kept an eye out as the bird swooped around.
Pretty soon I had my phone out taking pictures. It flew away, came back, did more circles. This went on for at least twenty minutes as Lucky and I continued up the trail. Finally, at the top of the hill I thought “why don’t I put the phone away and actually experience this event rather than taking photos of it?”
So I did. I put my phone in my pocket and just watched the bird. And that’s when it all changed. The bird soared in a big dramatic loop before bearing down. There was no mistake, he was coming straight for us. I couldn’t tell if the bird was being just playful or if it was protecting a nest or if it was upset the Leafs lost (again) and was taking its frustration out on us. I wasn’t paralyzed at the bird heading straight for us but I certainly didn’t know what to do.
At the time, it felt like he was right on top of us before finally pulling up. In hindsight though, it was probably more like thirty feet (ten meters) or so, which is still pretty close! As he pulled up he dropped something in the tall grass. I definitely recognized the sound when it hit the ground but couldn’t quite place it at the time.
I walked into the field looking for what he had dropped. As I searched, I looked over to see him perched on a fence post, body facing away but looking back over his shoulder as if to make sure I found what he had offered.
I found it. It was a Snapple bottle. I knew I recognized the sound! Soon after I picked up the bottle the bird flew away and Lucky and I were back on our hike.
What a weird happening. I didn’t really think too much of it except that it was pretty cool to be part of nature like that. I felt a sort of acceptance by the wildlife.
Later that night I looked back through the photos I had taken. Many of them were duds but this one caught my eye. It was one of the first ones I took, which was a solid twenty minutes before I had found the bottle in the grass. Look in his talons … he was carrying it with him the entire time. And it wasn’t until I put the phone down and paid attention that he swooped in to give it to me.
Once I realized he had been carrying the bottle the whole time, waiting for me to get my nose out of my phone and pay attention, I also realized the bottle wasn’t the only thing he “dropped” at my feet. At the moment he pulled up there was a distinct feeling in the air, that I felt but didn’t notice, if that makes sense. I sensed it but it didn’t register in my awareness. Only now, reflecting on the encounter, is it showing up to me.
The most accurate way I can articulate the feeling is: “Here you go you stupid human. Pick up your GD trash!”
I’m still not sure what the takeaway from this experience is, except maybe that there’s a disconnect in trying to narrow it down to just one lesson or moral of the story. A significant portion of human civilization has been removed from the natural processes that sustain our existence for … who knows how long now, that our logical quantifying of everything into a tidy little box has finally caught up to us.
Balance doesn’t turn off just because we focus on one thing more than another. This experience has definitely taught me to step back and look from a wider, more holistic perspective. It was also one of the final catalysts leading to the creation The BRIDGE model.
Lucky has since passed, and I fell out of touch with the Osprey, but I’m happy to have memories and these photos of two of my favourite fellow earth creatures, who apparently are still teaching me.