Kolton, my 3 year old buddy, and I went on an adventure yesterday. We were going to go see a couple of eagles get released after a long rehabilitation at the Wildlife Care Clinic in Ames. They were the unfortunate victims of poisoning from this crazy toxic environment we are fastly creating.
When I had heard of the scheduled release a few days earlier, I felt compelled to go although I am not sure exactly why. So the adventure began! And par for the course in my world, it started off with time dripping away so quickly that it was highly questionable whether we would get to see the release at all. Firstly, I was faced with a little boy who wasn’t quite sure he wanted to go on Grandma’s adventure and so tick tock as I tried to convince him how awesome adventures can be. Finally, I got him into the car only to be greeted by a very empty tank of gas. Why not? After all adventures would not be adventures without a few twists in the road.
So on to the gas station. But of course, with a presumptuous three year old that has come to associate gas stations with the expectations of a DRINK and a TREAT; one cannot just simply get gas without ruining his version of the adventure. So with a five dollar bill in hand, a three year old in tow and the clock ticking ticking ticking, we can best be described as Hansel and Gretel stumbling upon the confectionary house deep in the forest. Well, Hansel anyway since Gretel still only had five dollars and a place to be.
The DRINK part was easy since they’ve conveniently placed these very compelling and extremely expensive McQueen juice bottles on the very bottom shelf for any unsuspecting three year old boy to drool over. It was grape juice. Not his favorite but HE was determined that it was EXACTLY what he wanted…(a job well done, marketing strategists!). With $3 of my $5 gone, it was on to find THE TREAT. So he began running down EaCH and EVErY isle. And I do mean RUN because after all he was a sugar-depleted three year old anxious to find his next fix. The decisions were ENDLESS and with the clock ticking for the eagle release, the word ENDLESS deserves to be written in capital letters!
And then he saw IT! He stopped! His eyes grew big! They grew brilliantly bright with JoY! You could tell that a magical moment had just fallen upon him. There on the shelf, just out of his reach, was the most glorious bag of Chips Ahoy cookies! “Grandma, are these cookies?” “Yes, babe, they are!” “Do we have enough money to get them?” “Yes, babe, we do!” His heart grew out of his chest as he hugged his treasure and ran to the counter. $4.98 and we are finally on our way!
Into the car we go, strapped in, cookies open and a drink that he did not care for that cost a ridiculous $3. “Grandma, can we go to the Cookie gas station another time too!” My heart grew satisfied knowing that I was a part of one his magical moments of the day. But TICK TOCK…the eagle release. FOCUS! FOCUS! Then it hit me! I really had no idea as to how to get from Point Cookie Gas Station to Point Eagle Release. I look at the clock….10:20…Eagle release 10:45! TiCk ToCk! GPS! I pull it up and apparently, I’m 21 minutes away. OK, still doable with a whole three minutes to spare! So on we go on our glorious adventure!
Finally, we are in the general vicinity of our goal but suddenly the GPS shows me driving in the fields! Well, I may be getting older, but I’m fairly sure I was not off-roading it at that moment. The writing is on the wall and it says “We are LOST!” The tick tocks are getting louder and the concession that we are going to miss what we had come for was trickling into my thoughts. We will just have to make the best of it. After all, it’s an adventure! As I’m explaining to my buddy that it’s a very good possibility that we may miss it, THERE it is! A SIGN! McFarland Park…2.5 miles! THIS WAY! It was MY Cookie Bag moment! Without the sugar of course! But much sweeter!
Okay…. so apparently it’s a back road…sloppy gravel pitted with daunting grooves but hey, that’s what happens on adventures, right? And then we see it, in the distance, over the hills…. a LINE of cars snaking its way back a half a mile from our glorious destination. It doesn’t matter! We are ready for the challenge, or so I tell myself. So I park the half mile away and my buddy and I look up a very large hill and start running. Twenty steps later…”Grandma, will you carry me?” I look at him. I look up the hill. I look at him. I look up the hill. I look at him. “Yes, baby, of course!”
So now, 30 plus pounds heavier, I begin to climb the IMMENSE hill. As my thighs begin to burn, I reposition him to a piggy back ride in hopes that the new position will give me HoPE of reaching the top. We play a game of breathing big breaths….well, it’s a game to him but it’s a lifeline to me! He laughs. His laughter makes my heart swell… I really don’t care about the hill anymore as long as I have this moment with him.
I start to look up in the sky because it’s likely that that will be our only chance of seeing these great birds.
With great relief, we reach the top… and then the entrance… and then the crowd of way more people than I ever imagined! We look around. “Grandma, where’s the eagles?” “I don’t know babe.” I’m trying to decide if I’m looking at a crowd that is anticipating a release or if I’m looking at a crowd that already experienced the release. I quickly realize it is the anticipation side of the equation!!! Yayyyy! We made it! Holy crap! How DID we possibly make it?!?!
We snake our way through the crowd, trying to find a spot where a three year old and his grandma who have beaten all odds of arriving on time, can taste the experience. We duck down in the front and get really little so we don’t impede on anyone behind us. Slowly a layer of standing people with very large cameras work their way in front of us. We can’t see. So we move again and make ourselves really teeny in front of this layer. And then another layer of standing people with very large cameras work their way in front of us. I realize it’s the same layer as before and it appears we are playing leapfrog! The STANDERS with BIG cameras clearly have no consideration for the TEENIES and their GRANDMAS as their own anticipation of getting the GREAT shot precedes any level of respect for OUR glorious adventures. The GRANDMAs and other Parental units are starting to rise up. “Get down in front!” “The children can’t see!” “If you are going to be in front, get on your knees!” A few of the STANDERS concede however the largest of the STANDERS clearly have missions that are bigger than their listening skills. But we think we finally have a spot where if you look JUST right through the holes created in the negative space of the bodies, we will get to see what we came for.
Just then, a body moved in front of us. And then it happened! Something completely unexpected escaped my own body. Suddenly, unintentionally, inadvertently, unconsciously a TeENy LiTtle monster inside of me growled. Just a little growl! But a growl! And judging by reaction of the innocent woman with the little camera that moved in our way, what was supposed to be on the inside of me had actually escaped to the outside of me. Oops! That little three year old sitting with me may have been the one that taught me to growl. It’s not uncommon for growls to escape him as he currently struggles at keeping his monsters inside while he is learning to be a respectful being. And now one of his biggest teachers just had a moment where he got to see one of HER little monsters get out. Of course, I apologized profusely to the woman as she was clearly one of us and was simply trying to find her spot on HER glorious adventure. However, admittedly a part of me WONDERED at the results of that little EeNsy WeENsy growl! We did not lose our spot again.
We waited anxiously and then they brought them in….the eagles had arrived!! They were beautiful creatures! The clinic Peeps told us that these two were the survivors. Many die from lead poisoning. This stoic pair had beaten the odds. They were now ready to resume their lives in nature.
So the release was readied. Two women in thick coats and massive gloves positioned themselves with their backs against us as they held these large creatures in their arms. As the countdown began, I anxiously pointed my buddy in the right direction with one hand and juggled the camera in the other in hopes that through the masses of bodies, we would not miss what we had come for. ONE, TWO, THREE!! Their MaGNiFiCEnt WiNgs spread and they ROSE up and then they SOARED. At that very moment a part of me SOARED with them. Something inside of me rose up on the wind and took flight too. My buddy and I watched together as they gracefully floated on the currents and quickly drifted out of sight. It was a Cookie Bag Moment for both of us!
And then as one might expect of a three year old, he was quickly on to other facets of the adventure as a tree whose branches reached to the ground and beckoned to him to come and climb. And then on to the pond and it’s plethora of critters including snails, and clams, and minnows. A child’s delight! And a dock that doubled as a ship sailing across the waves chasing dragons and whales and sharks and ‘good’ birds. The adventure went on.
But this one moment of soaring with the eagles has found a place within my soul as I take the feeling of that moment, the taste of those skies and the elation of soaring and put them in a bottle to open when I need to know that feeling again. I apply what is in that bottle to the act of pursuing my dreams. I cannot forget the obstacles my buddy and I faced in attempting to get to that Cookie Bag Moment on our adventure. These parallel the obstacles I have been facing on my adventure of pursuing my OWN dreams. It is not always an easy road but when all seems lost, small things show us the way if our eyes are open to seeing them. And if we follow the signs and keep on keeping with our dreams and our hopes, the reality is that we CAN soar with the eagles. One day, I fully intend to be among them, soaring every day of my life as my dreams come to fruition!