Forgiveness

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The ducks and geese are gone, leaving the tidal meadow looking deceptively empty. But Aki and I flush warblers and sparrows with each step we take along an earthen dike that borders it. In the pond formed by the dike a young beaver swims back and forth, stopping only to slap its tail on the water. I tell it not to worry, that neither the dog nor I have any intention of taking up residence on the pond.

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Minutes before, two Sitka black tail deer had walked across the North Douglas Highway as we slowed to turn into the trailhead parking lot. One, a young male with nascent antler buds took the lead. The female deer followed, more interested in eating new growth grass than our car. The male took up station at the tree line and stared at me. I knew he would break into the woods if I left the car so I didn’t move.

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After circling the beaver pond, the little dog and I push on and round the tip of a peninsula where we have seen so many mallards in winter. Eagle cries and crow cackles come from inside the old growth spruce forest on the peninsula but I can’t see one of the noisemakers. On the backside of the peninsula a mature bald eagle stands behind a flat-topped rock that is covered with barnacles. Bright sunlight makes its head painfully white. Even though there is food to find on the surrounding wetlands, the eagle stands still behind the rock, as if it were a pastor practicing for the Sabbath homily. As we approach the eagle, a whale surfaces and exhales.

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Another bald eagle flies, with talon’s extended, toward the preacher, which screams at the late arriver. I expect a fight but am treated to an apparent offer and acceptance of forgiveness. The newcomer bows its head low and approaches. In seconds it’s lowered beak is almost touching the preacher’s talons. After the other eagle lightly touches the supplicant they separate.

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If I were in a more skeptical mood, I might have described the scene as the reunion of an unfaithful husband and longsuffering wife. I could have portrayed a hungry eagle scolding its mate for not delivering some food. But it is early summer and we are enjoying the fourth day of warm sunshine after a long, wet spell. The meadow grass will never shine as green. Purple lupine flowers show near the tree line and the columbines can’t be too far behind. I shouldn’t be surprised that I saw love and forgiveness in an eagle’s actions.

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