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Once Upon An Eagle

Once upon an eagle there was time, and so once upon a time there was an eagle.  He wondered how he had come to be an eagle, for he could not see his reflection in a mirror - largely because there were no mirrors in the land where he simply found himself as a tiny speck of awareness one day.  Was it day?  It must have been, for the sun was shining brightly in his eyes.  Bright, so bright.  Surely all things must come from the sun and return to it, for its splendor was beyond question.  Yes, that was the answer.  All life came from the light and returned to it, where it would begin again.  It was as good an explanation as any, and so he chose to Believe it with all his heart, even though it was really only the sun.

For awhile - who's to say how long? - the eagle roamed the worlds looking for others like himself, but because he could not see his own reflection, he could not really know what he was looking for.  When he came upon a frog sitting quietly at the edge of the dark sea of awareness, the eagle was ecstatic and embraced the frog with such fierce affection that the frog was obliterated instantly - even before the eagle could ask his questions.  The eagle was devastated - because the frog was quite a beautiful little thing, yet now the eagle could see that he was not like the frog, and that he had made a terrible mistake.  Not knowing what else to do, he took the frog into his mouth and swallowed it whole - so that he might understand it better and honor its death by giving it continuity within his own body... which he could see now was quite different from the frog.

Why does it take death to show me this? the eagle wondered.  It must be that all things die, and only by drinking the awareness of what it was to be a frog will I ever understand what it is to be myself.

That was his next belief – which, although it had no basis in actual events, made a good story for Eagle to tell himself in his increasing despair.

And so the eagle continued his journey, looking for others like himself, but encountering only a myriad of lifeforms who ultimately bore no resemblance whatsoever.  The eagle perceived himself to be alone - and in his loneliness, he became angry and vindictive.  Trying to hold the hummingbird in his hand, she died, fluttering wings going still, until the eagle could only devour her tiny little Self in an effort to consume the unique essence which had been She-Who-Floats-In-Air.  When the eagle encountered the coyote, and thought once again that he had found another like himself, he was dismayed to discover that Brother Coyote had no wings, and liked to whisper in strange tongues about secrets and mysteries which only other coyotes would understand.  Other coyotes.  The eagle heard these words and was outraged.  The coyote had kindred families!  The coyote was not alone in the void! And so the eagle - having learned his strengths - embraced all the rabbits and ground rats and field mice in Mr. Coyote's territory, until coyote himself was consumed by the eagle's wrath and starved to death in the desert.


Though the eagle had come to see that all things were filled with Life until he embraced them, it was only when all the world became permeated with the stench of death and the awareness of the eagle's power that he began to catch glimpses of himself in the dying eyes of all those beings he had embraced.  In coyote's glazing eyes, the eagle saw that his own eyes were not so different.  He concluded, therefore, that he must simply be another form of coyote with feathers instead of fur, with wings instead of forelegs.  Surely that was the answer - but because coyote was dead, the eagle could not ask him what he saw.  In the eyes of Sister Rabbit, eagle saw fear, and recognized it in himself, though he was loathe to admit it.  So eagle wondered then if he were prey, just another insignificant creature running for its life in the miasma of Chaos-Made-Manifest.

Is this what I am?  Only fear incarnate locked behind eyes that do not see?

Eagle continued his search far and wide, but found nothing like himself in all the lands spreading to the far reaches of the farthest galaxies.  Eagle was alone.  He was the only one of his kind.  And he wept for that, and in his grief and his anger, he hid behind the bright light - knowing its beauty would draw all things to it in the end, where he would be waiting.  Waiting.  Hungry.  Angry.  Alone.  And all things came to him, as he had hoped.  The essence of the baboon sought the light at its death, and the eagle was fed, though still hungry, for the baboon did not contain eagle’s answers.  The sparrow came as well, and was received by the hungry eagle as a morsel that might tell him something about himself... but ultimately told him nothing. The sparrow was not himself. There was no reflection.  There was no resonance.  There was no love.


Eagle had heard the word carried on the lips of many beings.  The hawk had spoken of love when he fell from the sky, leaving his mate to mourn his passing from desolate snow-laden treetops with a cry that would go forevermore unheard by the beloved for whom it was intended.  Baby squirrel had whispered of love when plucked from his mother’s breast – but eagle did not know of this thing, this “love”, and so he devoured the baby squirrel anyway, ignoring the mama squirrel’s cries of grief.

In his despair for what he did Not-Know, eagle wept with such a mournful wail that the world was split by the sound into day and night – the darkness and the light.  Eagle himself determined that he would walk the crack between the worlds, for he seemed to be at home in neither place, and no matter how many creatures he consumed, there were no answers for him.  He did not die, yet he could not seem to live as the other creatures lived either.  He was utterly alone even though some of the 2-legged beings would smile and nod at him as they passed him on a busy street corner somewhere in the neighborhood of New York or Los Angeles or London or Rome.

“How odd,” the eagle mused, “that these fragile beings pretend to know me, and even seem to like me!  Do they not realize I will devour them soon enough?  Any one of them may contain my answer – and if I must devour all of them to get to it, that is what I will do!”

And so eagle went right on devouring everything in his path, then spitting it back out as its dis-integrated fragments of energy so that it could go seek some other manifestation that might bring more Knowledge to Eagle.  But no matter how many creatures Eagle consumed, it was all only a hopeless and endless stream of memories which, in the end, did not seem to have any ability to hold themselves intact once the physical shell which had housed the creature had returned to the dust.  There were no answers.  I already know everything there is to know, Eagle determined.

That was his next Belief.

Then one day, for no reason Eagle could determine, he came upon a young woman sitting on a bridge at the crack between the worlds.  The beautiful life-light had faded below the horizon.  The moon mistress had not yet shown her face.  The two worlds were colliding.  Eagle could sense the young woman’s melancholy but not the reason for it, and as he gazed upon her, he realized she did not even look the same as the other 2-leggers upon whom he had been feeding for aeons.  Whereas most of the others were luminous reflections of the Great Light, this one was like a black egg which held her light and her secrets to herself.  So because he was curious and bored and despairing, he flew down out of the self-perpetuating shadows and sat down on the bridge, next to the woman’s left shoulder.  Far below, the dark sea of awareness glistened, reflecting starlight and the face of the young woman… but not the eagle.  After all this once upon a Time, he still could not find his own reflection.

Though she clearly knew he was there, the young woman did not turn her eyes upon Eagle.  Instead, she gazed into the depths of  the sea of awareness, saying nothing.  Tilting his head, eagle glanced at the woman, then at the dark sea, then at the woman again.  He could not explain what he saw, but it was clear to eagle that her silence came from the dark sea and would return to it.  This perplexed eagle, causing him to speak before he even realized he had a voice.

“You do not seek the light,” Eagle said to the woman.  “You sit here at the edge of this vast and foreboding sea of awareness, and turn you back on the Great Light?  Why is this?”

The woman did not turn toward him, though legend says she may have smiled just a little.  “My reflection is not in the light or the darkness.”

Eagle did not understand her words, but something in him stirred.  A deeper sadness interrupted his lonesome journey.  “I have no reflection,” he said, mostly to himself.  And the sadness magnified tenfold as he looked at this woman on the bridge between the worlds.  It occurred to him to simply devour her and be done with it – for she was an irritation to his well-ordered routines – and yet there was something about her that caused him to hesitate.

As if sensing that hesitation, the woman laughed, swinging her legs back and forth as they dangled over the side of the bridge. She seemed so young, eagle thought, yet she was clearly a wise old crone behind the eyes.  

 “Silly bird, you’re looking in all the wrong places for your answers.  You’re believing one thing now and another thing tomorrow, and in your dissatisfaction with yourSelf, you destroy everything that crosses your path instead of looking to see that your reflection is right in front of you.”  The fact that she said these things to Eagle – He-Who-Destroys-All – without any shred of fear or respect caused his shiny feathers to ruffle for a moment. 

He leaned forward, ominously, close to the young woman’s throat.  But she didn’t withdraw or shriek or throw herself at his mercy, as so many had done over the centuries.  She just went right on gazing into the dark sea – and that outraged him all the more.

“Do you not know to whom you are speaking?” eagle demanded.  “Do you not know who I am, what I will eventually do to you?”

The young woman sighed softly and, to eagle’s surprise, reached out to caress his feathers in a gesture that caused him to tremble.  Then, for the first time, she turned her head and looked him straight in the eye – something no other living creature had ever done.

“I know exactly who you are,” the warrior woman told him with a certainty that rendered him altogether spellbound, for it was a confidence and a stability that went beyond fear of him and instead told him that he was accepted.  He was loved.

But then she shattered his world.  “I know exactly who you are,” she repeated, looking deeply into Eagle’s stillwater eyes.  “Do you?”

Because eagle could not answer that question, he knew he could not destroy this peculiar young woman sitting on the bridge at the crack between the worlds.  So when she got up and continued her journey toward the distant stars rather than the blinding light, Eagle could only gaze after her in wonder and awe and an odd feeling of familiarity.

“Who am I?” he called after her.

She did not turn to look at him, but held out her left arm and gave a soft, loving whistle.  “Come on, pretty bird,” she said as the stars were coming into view.  “I’ll show you.  In the end, you may not like the answer anymore than I do, but the journey itself will be phenomenal.”

“But I am alone!” eagle protested. “It is my nature to be alone, to devour all things, to be feared.”

The woman never looked back, just laughed softly into the gathering dusk.  “You’re not alone.  You’re unique.  The reason you can’t find others like yourself is because you are the only One.”

Eagle was spellbound.  His attention was hooked.  Seeing the woman retreating, he knew he would be left behind if he waited.  And so, he hesitated for only a moment.  Casting a look over his shoulder toward the dark sea of awareness, and another in the direction of his fading past, he spread his wings and went to land on the warrior woman’s left shoulder, where he felt a most unusual sense of familiarity, as if he had been there all along. 

And though he still did not know precisely who he was – for the warrior woman was clever enough stalk her mirror with impeccable intent and unconditional love - he had a most peculiar feeling that he was much closer to an answer, much closer to seeing the reflection  he had been searching for since he first discovered himself as a tiny speck of awareness. Soon, Eagle thought, he would see himself in the warrior woman’s eyes.  Soon.

It was a new beginning somewhere at the edge of once upon a Time.

copyright (c) 2006, by Della Van Hise
All Rights Reserved

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