A an old friend of mine and I were headed to the funeral of a mutual friend; both were much older than me. I’m driving along and he looks up at the sky.
“Look! Eagles,” he excitedly announces, peering up and pointing a withered finger. His thick lensed glasses make his eyes large and owl-like as he looks at me, grinning in delight. Hunching over the steering wheel, I glance up. All I can see are a couple turkey vultures wheeling overhead. I grimace, thinking about something dead.
“No,” I say, settling back in my seat. “Those are vultures.”
He looks at me, then looks at them doubtfully. He leans forward, squinting against the sun and shielding his eyes with his hand. Finally he settles back in his seat and looks at me.
“Eagles,” he firmly declares.
I think for a moment. Wouldn’t that be great?, I thought somewhat enviously, somewhat bitterly, if I could see eagles instead of vultures when there are only vultures there? To me it seemed to represent a potential way of thinking; of coming to positive terms with some aspects of myself – and life beyond. If only I could see eagles instead of vultures – like he does, I thought again with that envious notion. How much better it would be!
I glanced at the sky one more time. The ‘eagles’ were still wheeling there – their black wings extended, their trade-mark turkey vulture pattern of black and white showing up clearly as they banked against the sky . . . .
“Yes,” I said, settling back in the seat again. “Eagles! Whatta ya know . . . what a special thing that is . . .” I smiled – and he smiled – and I think it was a sort of smile we hadn’t smiled in a long time – one of knowing and accepting some things; making the best of them, despite them – because of them . . .
Or in some cases, deciding that the eagles were vultures – and vultures eagles sometimes . . .