We watched an eagle soar across a wide expanse of bush. Standing there in the trees, silenced by the majesty of that great bird, I felt honored by the display of its strength and grace.
“That’s how I want to be,” I told my elder friend. We were walking on the land as we generally did whenever I visited. He’d show me things as we passed and share stories and teachings about what they represented or symbolized to our people. He was a walking, talking cultural encyclopedia.
“How exactly do you want to be?” he asked.
“Graceful,” I said. “Just like that. To soar like that, easily, gracefully.
He smiled at my words and put his head down and continued walking and I followed him deeper into the bush. We walked silently for a long time and eventually he sat down on a log in a clearing and motioned for me to sit beside him. What he told me that day never left me.
The eagle’s grace doesn’t come easily he said. When we see it hang in the sky or glide effortlessly we imagine that it must be a natural action, that the eagle is born with that particular gift. But it takes a tremendous amount of time, dedication and work to achieve it.
When you look closely at an eagle feather. It’s made up of thousands of tiny strands. The eagle needs to know how to control each of them. When the wind blows it needs to know how to catch it, hold it, direct the flow of it to keep it in the air. When the air is still it needs to know how to move the air through its feathers.
As it flies the eagle needs to learn how to read the treetops or the grasses in the wind. It needs to know how to read the clouds, to feel of the air and to learn to shift instantaneously to small changes. It takes a long, long time.
So when we stand on the ground and look up at an eagle soaring magnificently across the sky, it’s not telling us how easy it is to be graceful. It’s telling us that if we work hard and learn who we were created to be, we can learn to soar. We learn our own grace and the motion across the sky of our lives is magnificent to behold.