When I was fresh out of school, I taught at a one-room school on a small island up the British Columbia coast. No TV, no radio, no roads. The students came to school on a school boat, the Kingcome Queen. I set my third novel, Nobody’s Bride, on that island.
More than once I stood on the dock, watching an eagle soar off a nearby cliff and ride the air currents up, up, up, never bothering to flap its wings, soaring until it was barely a dot. Why so high? I wondered. The simple answer would be’looking for salmon’, but it never swooped down like a hungry dive bomber. (Too bad; I would’ve loved to have witnessed that!) No, the eagle just kept rising and rising. Enjoying itself, I like to think. Enjoying its strength and power and glorying in being an eagle. Because an eagle is a grand thing to be.
More than once, I followed games trails to the top of that cliff. One time, I surprised that eagle out of a tree not more than thirty feet away. Its wings were directly above my head, huge and frightening, and when then they flapped, they made a deep, bass rumble far too loud for any mere bird. The First Nations people would have called it a Spirit Eagle, but my mind being what it is, let’s just say that the eagle transcended my mental category of ‘bird’. I knew then, if I hadn’t before, that an eagle is, beyond doubt, a grand thing to be.
Recently I went to Vancouver to visit my son who is a researcher at the University of British Columbia. That’s eagle country, though several hundred miles south of the eagle of my youth.
I brought the eagle feather back with me to the Arizona desert. It’s nearly 2 feet long, and it’s made out of wood. Cedar, to be exact. I love Northwest Coast Aboriginal Art, so I bought it from Alex Mountain, a Kwagiulth carver from Alert Bay, who was working on the streets of Gastown, the oldest section of Vancouver. The carving was freshly made, as you can see from the artists’ signatures on the back:
I named the Kwagiulth hero of “Alien Contact for Idiots” (one of my manuscripts) ‘Eaglesbrood’. Because an eagle is a magnificent thing to be!