Do They Ever Smile

Aki and I are walking down along the north bank of the Mendenhall River. The rain and grey of yesterday have given way to sun and blue skies. You would think that the eagles in the trees above us would be happy. 

            We pass two adult bald eagles sharing a tree, like mates will after fledging chicks. Each fiercely stares across the river where mallards are cackling away like residents of Bedlam. Aki keeps close as we walk under their tree. She need not worry. They seem too self possessed to even notice a ten-pound-poodle-mix. 

            One eagle, the one lower down the tree, flies off first, darkening the grass at our feet with its shadow. Minutes later the other one launches itself up, pumps its wings to gain altitude, and glides over the forest until out of sight. 

            We will flush several more adult eagles on the walk downriver to Fritz Cove. Each will look fierce or disgusted or frustrated or merely bored. I will search unsuccessfully for a memory of an eagle expressing joy or happiness. Do they ever have a laugh with their friends? 

            On our way back up river we pass under an immature bald eagle digging its beak into its chest feathers. Then it spreads wide its tail feathers and stares at them as if searching for fleas. The beach grass beneath its roost is dotted with soft feathers. When it spots the little dog and I, it raises its beak as if it smells something foul.

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