Of Eagles and Men

There are three of them up there, and what a racket! Correction: the racket, that’s just the two of them. She is soaring silent, near motionless, regal; aloof. Her path seemingly unalterable. On a mission permitting no distractions.


I am transported years back to a different place, studying a black and white photograph above a fireplace. Old Mr Thornburn shuffling around a table behind me. ‘Such a camaraderie I had not known before, nor have since,’ is all he (ever) said about it.

Up on the mantle piece a young Mr Thornburn. In a glass bubble on the tail end of a (seemingly immovable) Lancaster in a cloudless sky. To me, a two generations removed causal observer, a picture of peace and tranquility, of adventure.

See? The camera does lie! An what an illusion! For this is an image of nothing less than Life Itself suspended. For a few hours? For eternity? For a mission permitting no distractions.


The screeching grows louder. Lot of posturing, then just one brief clash. More posturing, but we (me, her, the two of them) know it’s all over. Age and experience triumphs over the virility of youth. The upstart, minus a few feathers, retreating; he will not be back.

Yet, we (me, her, the two of them) know it’s far from over. Merely the beginning of the end. The upstart will return, perhaps next year, perhaps the year after. Bigger, craftier, having the upper claw.

I watch the two of them soar higher and higher. And we (me, her, him) know that when that day comes it will be the other she takes back to her nest. Her mission allows no sentiment. But, for now at least, the inevitability of the future has been deferred.

[Though we (you and me, if not her and them) know chances are one or the other, if not all three, will get shot, trapped, poisoned, or just fly miles out to sea to drown—Scottish eagles seem to prefer such a fate to longevity, some (useless wastrels) opine.]


Mr Thornburn is gone now, and with him the memories he never spoke of. I didn’t then, but I understand now that some experiences are too profound to trivialise by telling, in turn making other experiences too trivial to merit it. My great grandfather’s journal, from yet an earlier war, contains such stories—stories that could never be shared with those who couldn’t understand, and didn’t need telling to those who did.

The younger me, too preoccupied with the (untold) tales of heroic deeds. The older me, too late, wanting to ask the (heavily pregnant) question that back then was hanging in the air.

Mime is a sheltered generation, collectively short on stories of substance. And so we have become compulsive tellers of trivialities, serial manufacturers of pseudo-heroic deeds, dressed up in multicoloured cloaks of fake profundity. Entertaining distractions from the imperative of the (ultimate) mission.

Tall tales of denial.


All that is left of the eagles are their distant calls, leaving me alone to my thoughts. ‘Generation goes, and generation comes, but the earth lasts forever.’


The Earth is groaning underneath us. We can count on the going, but can we on the coming? How many more cycles are there left? Two, three?

If only the eagles could talk.