The other day, as I drove onto the asphalt parking lot that surrounds my condo association, I saw a huge turkey vulture standing in my path. Even though I drove close, he didn’t budge and kept tearing at something with his beak. Finally I had to back up drive around another way to avoid hitting him. After I parked, I walked over to investigate. I wanted to see what this vulture had scavenged that was so precious it would cause him to disregard his own safety.
As I drew closer, what I saw couldn’t even be described as carrion. He was tearing at a squirrel that had already been opened andpicked clean by another animal, and flattened by traffic. Only the dry husk of squirrel remained, his fur. And yet the vulture stood stubbornly anchored to the ground, guarding and picking at this empty shell as if it still held something worth risking his life for.
Later that day when I went outside again, a number of neighbors were looking up at the sky. Incredibly, a bald eagle was visiting our urban neighborhood. I grabbed my camera, and watched him for a long while. (Oh, how I wished for a telephoto lens!) He soared in concentric circles, then paused for awhile atop the highest branch in the tallest tree. “Majestic” is a totally appropriate, if clichéd, word to use for him.
I couldn’t help but think about the contrast between the two birds I saw that day. One, taking the low ground, small view, picking over a dry husk, stuck in one fruitless place. The other, an eagle, wide view, flying free and choosing the highest perch for himself.
And I ask myself: Which bird do you want to be, Mary Ann? Vulture or eagle. Vulture or eagle?
A version of this post appeared originally on Eric Maisel Creativity Central.