The Eagles of Candlemas, continued

Diana Miller, director of the Raptor Center in Pueblo

Raptor center director Diana Miller with a female golden eagle.

The first part is here.

As I wrote earlier this week, M. and I celebrated Candlemas by going to Eagle Days down at the state park by Pueblo Reservoir.  (Chamber of Commerce types want you to say “Lake Pueblo.”)

Scheduling a festival around raptors is a little iffy; you can expect sandhill cranes, for instance, to show up on time for their festival, but eagles?

So the director of the local raptor-rehabilitation center and her volunteers always show up with plenty of “education birds,” those being birds whose injuries or some cases habituation to humans keeps them from being released into the wild.

M. and I are volunteers too, in that our work as “wildlife transporters” for Colorado Parks & Wildlife often means bringing in hawks, owls, and vultures to the center. Once in a while, we get to release one as our reward. (The survival rate for injured raptors, unfortunately, is not too high.)

We caught part of the U.S. Air Force Academy falconers’ demonstration, an Indian pow-wow dance group’s eagle dance, looked at the birds. We had seen one golden eagle on the drive to the lake, and Diana said a certain spot farther down the Arkansas River might have some bald eagles, but I had another plan that had worked before, which involved driving upstream, into the state wildlife area, and then hiking with spotting scope and tripod to an overlook.

There, at the edge of the ice (the lake being half-frozen), was a black dot, which at 20x quickly resolved into a bald eagle, just hanging out.

It was not my spirit bird, nor did it bring me a message. It was just an eagle doing eagle stuff, another inhabitant of the upper Arkansas River.

It’s funny how we have to have a special day, with costumes, handouts, museum exhibits, captive birds, pizza, and cookies just to celebrate letting the wild be wild (and the wheel of the year), but that is how we roll. And if it build connections, I am all for it.

I care less and less for fancy metaphysics, dazzling Neoplatonic pyramids, recycled Theosophy, and all of that. I like my Paganism close to the ground. I know that that puts me at odds with all the One God/One Prophet/One Book people out there as well, but I gave up on monotheism many decades ago because it never told me how to live alongside the eagle.

The Eagles of Candlemas

pueblo eagle daysPaganism is not the religion of the polis, but the polis (loosely defined) can support your Paganism.

For the last two days, my Facebook feed has been filling up with people posting electronic clip art to the theme of “Happy Bridget / Imbolc / Candlemas.”

Me, I spent three hours today enjoying quality time with my snowblower, clearing out a foot of Happy Candlemas that fell in the past two days.  (That’s my long wooded driveway, plus the one up to the guest cabin, plus an elderly neighbor’s driveway, in time for him to drive off to lunch at the senior center — he does have a 4WD pickup.)

I normally think of Candlemas as an “inner” holiday, compared to Yule. It marks what is usually my most productive writing time of the year. But I also like the idea of tying the quarter and cross-quarter days to events that somehow connect to the natural world, like the Chile & Frijoles Festival at the autumn equinox or the Yule log hunt.

I brought up this topic a year ago, but I did not make a suggestion for Imbolc, which occurs at 9:30 a.m. GMT on the 4th of February this year (check your dates here.)

Yet it was looking me in the face — and I had attended before: Eagle Days, this coming weekend! Except that bird plays havoc with the traditional esoteric astrological arrangement: Beltane, 15° Taurus (St. Luke-bull); Lammas, 15° Leo (St. Mark-lion); Samhain, 15° Scorpio (St. John-eagle); Candlemas, 15° Aquarius (St. Matthew-man).

Well, you can’t have everything. I have a blog post planned about the silliness of trying to jam Paganish stuff into neat categorial schemes.

The old Jeep CJ-5 celebrates Candlemas.

The old Jeep CJ-5 celebrates Candlemas.

Here on the Eastern Slope of the Rocky Mountains, we say a verse that contains ancient wisdom:

Winter in the spring,
Summer in the fall,
Fall in the winter,
And no spring at all.

So by that bit of local knowledge, this is the beginning of snow season. I don’t know how you work a fire festival into that, except that it is nice to have the increasing sunshine to melt April blizzards. Maybe the fire is in the head.

Have the wintering bald eagles arrived at Pueblo Reservoir? I really should pack up the spotting scope and go see. Happy Candlemas, eagles.

Looking at Birds, Listening to Birds

July 1st started out well and then rapidly went downhill as I got the news about the Granite Mountain Hotshots on the Yarnell Fire in Arizona.

By the 2nd, I was so drained from constantly accessing news videos, etc., that I had to get away, and so I went fishing. I wanted to try to different approach to a mountain stream that I fish now and then — it involved some gravel county roads, then two miles in four-wheel-drive down a steep descent into its canyon, followed by a short walk.

As I came out of the dry juniper and oak brush into the lusher creekside vegetation hawk flew low over me — an accipter, probably a sharp-shinned hawk. Its head turned, and it looked at me.

It felt like a welcome, I thought.

“Bullshit,” I told myself, “it’s just cruising the riparian zone looking for lunch. I happened to be here, so it checked me out.”

Maybe the flip side of the New Animism — the focus on relationships between yourself and the other-than-human world — is that you cannot think that these encounters are All About You.

The wild birds are always watching, and they do talk to you. And they talk about you. Several times I have had crows and Steller’s jays tell me something when I was hunting deer or elk — but it is up to me to act correctly on their information. Apparently our relationship is not yet perfectly harmonious. But if they would help me more, they would have something to eat. Isn’t that fair?

What gets under my skin is when someone says something like, “My totem is Hawk,” because I want to know which hawk? There is a boatload of difference between a Cooper’s hawk and a Mississippi kite, for instance. (Oh well, they probably meant red-tailed hawk anyway, the pickup truck of buteos — large, useful, and ubiquitous.)