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Tightening my leash

 A bald eagle circled above me this morning as I walked along the Lake Road. With each effortless revolution the sun glinted off his magnificent white head and I watched his easy circles, marveling at the beauty and grace of this once almost instinct bird, remembering the joy of watching eagles come back from the grave until now they’re a common sight in downeast Maine. But as I mused, I noticed, his was no in-the-distant circling, riding higher and higher on the elevated air currents. This was an up-close-and-personal orbiting right over my head. When he rose too high, he’d downdraft to get closer, intently keeping an eye on us.

Yesterday, he was in a tall, shore-clinging, eastern white pine tree’s branches and fascicles, those clumps of needles partially hiding him. As I stepped back to get a better glimpse, he lowered his head to meet my gaze, and I felt a combination of wonder and fear. I knew his eagle eyes were capturing so much more than my mere human ones. I wanted to unravel that gaze, to know what was behind it. Was it just natural interest like mine, or the gaze of a predator sizing up its prey?

Both yesterday and today, I pulled Arnie’s retractable leash closer—my thirteen-pound Shih Tzu is no match against murderous talons. A game warden’s tale of fourteen cat and dog collars found in an eagle’s nest along with a Facebook picture of a wiener dog being carried off at the end of his six foot leash, now means I see Arnie’s expanding tether as both freeing and dangerous. Pulling him closer means I breathe easier.

I’m pulling my own leash closer these days. Black Lives Matter, COVID-19, and white supremacy stories stoke my anxiety, threatening to hurl me into a maelstrom of despair. Too much Facebook time, has me believing it’s utterly hopeless to believe we’ll cross the great divide we find ourselves in, united we stand, divided we fall is all but forgotten. Facebook and the news makes me feel like a dog forever distracted by squirrels and treats, unable to focus as I’m anxiously looking for a treat in a story I want to hear; or a squirrel to chase and attack because it’s a story anathema to my beliefs. Both treat and squirrel fling me into an abyss of despair and hopelessness. Both try to convince me it’s an either/or situation, when deep down I know that truth isn’t simply black and white, it’s multiple shades of grey.

How many shades of grey? As many shades as humans on our planet. All our personal histories, experiences and environments contribute to nuances of beliefs and values. There is no black or white, right or wrong, up or down, rather everything is a continuum of opinions. More importantly, no one else’s viewpoint can color my response conforming it to black or white, unless I allow it to. Instead, it’s my job to reach out with curiosity across that great divide, to seek understanding, to say tell me more, and then to listen, not for differences, but for common threads. 

These common threads are the bridge to reuniting America so we can learn from and support each other, bringing us together again to build up all that we have lost. For me to do this, I need to remove my distractions (all treats and squirrels) and pull in my leash by removing Facebook from my phone. And, during this time of abstinence, I pledge to use the extra time to find and strengthen the common threads running through the fabric of my friends, family, and greater community.

 When I feel stronger, less preyed upon, less manipulated, I’ll be back—or not!