Commentary

His eye is on the sparrow, the eagle, and me

Mary Jo Thorsheim

Again this year, literally millions of people have watched the development of an eagle family by following a web camera from Decorah Iowa’s Raptor Resource Project and the Decorah Fish Hatchery. A pair of eagle parents has carefully nurtured three eaglets in their well-built, huge nest.

The hand of God can be seen in the divine plan for these birds. Step-by-step, the story unfolds as it does every year. And, every year there is a Season of the Eagle® that delights and educates people all over the world. Those with a religious faith can readily see the image of God in the development of this family and its offspring.

From the superbly-engineered nest built of sticks and branches to the gentle care provided by enormous birds who are often thought to look fierce and aggressive, an amazing picture is created. The mother and father eagle share duties of sitting on eggs, feeding, and instructing the hatchlings until they become juveniles, and have learned to hunt and fish for themselves.

Months of “eaglet-raising” continue in the face of weather extremes and natural threats such as owls and raccoons. The tall cottonwood nest-tree can sway precariously in strong wind, rain, or snow; sleet can pelt the nest and its occupants; a strong Iowa sun can consume the shade. The parents steadily cope with such changes and seem to anticipate the needs of the eaglets with vision and planning.

His “eye” is on the “eagle,” a remarkable bird with its own tremendous eyesight: “Eagle-eyed” is a phrase that almost everyone has heard.

What does this mean?

Not only the eagle is watched over by God. Tiny sparrows that have the courage to build their own nests in the base of the eagle’s 6’ x 6’ x 5’ nest even approach the surface of the eagle nest to forage for food at times. They fearlessly sit on the rim of the nest and flit up and down to their lower duplex as if they have no fear of the eagle-neighbors above. If the eagles or eaglets notice them at all, they disinterestedly watch. There is no indication that the sparrows could be a meal for them though they would be only one beak-bite. (The eagles’ main diet of fish is plentiful in the nearby fish hatchery and Decorah’s numerous streams.)

Lessons to be learned from watching the activities of the “Decorah eagles” can be applied to challenges we face. Even when our basic needs are met, sudden challenges of health issues, relationships, financial security, etc., can arise and change a beautiful day into a fearsome one. An MRI may be needed and the outcome is unsure; a routine biopsy results in a call-back for further study; a family member or close friend suddenly perishes; jobs are lost that seemed secure.

In such times of stress, it may help to recall the life of the eagle. Even with its physical strength, it may encounter natural or environmental threats that render it fragile and vulnerable. Yet, the eagle carries on, and seeing this can give us courage in difficult circumstances.

Mary Jo Thorsheim is author of the book Three Little Eagles and How They Grew. She lives in Minneapolis.

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