This happened weeks ago, and I can still hear the sound. In fact it lives inside me now like the scent of sweet peas and lilacs from childhood, the taste of my grandma's gingerbread cookies at Christmas, the sight of a tropical sunrise viewed while the rest of the world slept.
I was walking the path in the park, as I've done hundreds of times, lost in roiling rapids of dark thoughts that no amount of attention seems to still these days. I was so deep in my head that it's a wonder I heard the sound at all.
Off to my left, where the river was running clear and clean, a wind-kissed snap stirred the air just enough to find my ear. Clean sheets on a windy August clothesline. Fingers popping to happy dancing music. God's "ahem" to bring me fully into the day.
I turned my head, not entirely sure I'd actually heard a real sound, to see a Bald Eagle making her way downstream, maybe six feet above my troubled head. As the realization of what I'd really heard dawned, my eyes followed her flight. She was mature, fully white head and tail, dark body, bright yellow beak and talons - regal in every way. I had a clear view a long way down the river, but at some point she simply disappeared. One moment she was there. One moment she wasn't.
The analogy is too simple, but the only one that fits. The sound of an eagle's wing in flight is exactly as I believe an angel's wing would sound. This is not the first time a Bald Eagle has arrived at the exact moment I needed a Voice to remind me that I am not alone. This was not the first time the bird simply vanished from the sky as I tracked its flight.
Usually I spot them as they fly directly overhead, almost close enough to reach up and touch. I've spotted pairs soaring in a distant spring sky. A peripheral flash of white will often reveal a full grown eagle, occasionally with companions, perched majestically in the branches of tree skeletons. Once, a long time ago, a perfect feather, earth brown and cloud white, presented itself in my path.
I remember loving Bald Eagles as a child, and being terrified that I'd never get to see one in the wild. Those were the days of DDT and soft eggs and the brink of extinction for the species. I didn't see any until I had reached adulthood, and sadly can no longer recall the first one. Every time I see one, however, it feels like the first one. The grace and glory and wonder of a spotting never fails to take my breath away.
This was the first time I heard an eagle's wing sing for me. A soft song of one pure note that has not diminished at all in the week's since it first made its way into my heart. The sound of hope and comfort and a power greater than any threatening darkness.
photo from Flickr