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An Impermanent Life

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An Impermanent Life

Thoughts on eagle trees and fatherhood, from the Hawk's Nest

As the storm raged, the big old Ponderosa snag swayed violently from a mighty gust. Two eagles sitting high above the lake on bare, gnarled branches opened their wings and lifted into the air instantly. With a deafening crack, another exposed rotting root broke and, with panicking ducks on water scattering into the wind, the 100-foot tall, gray weathered tree made a thunderous crash into the lake. 

I had watched this tree for over thirty years; in fact, I named it The Eagle Tree because of so many sightings I had there. Over the years, I watched waves breaking at the roots washing away the soil and rocks that gave this grandfather of the forest its stability. Each year it seemed another dead branch shed and floated away. It was obvious the time was near for the majestic old fellow to lie down. The only disappointing part is I was not with it—I could only imagine how the final moments played out.  

Walking around a bend in the trail I looked west a quarter of a mile to where I always saw The Eagle Tree, but not that morning. A few more steps and I saw its branches sticking out of the water several feet from the shore. A Kingfisher, looking for breakfast, perched on one. 

Sitting at the base of my old friend I couldn’t help but think about the impermanence of all nature—of everything.

It was the first of June and as I was walking toward the old pine I had been thinking of Father’s Day. Specifically about Noah, our son-in-law, who is also a new father. 

I’ve known him for nearly ten years now and have always liked him. When I heard he and Ana were “an item,” I was pleased and it has been exciting watching them develop a loving relationship and marriage. Now there is a baby girl. 

As expected, he has matured during those years, and with that, some attitudes have changed. Things that were important are now set aside and there is a change in his focus. All of this growth has created a man who is intelligent, compassionate and disciplined.  

He was at sea when his daughter, Alice, was born so they didn’t meet until she was two months old. When I saw the pictures and videos of their first time together, I saw a father—a family man with another wonderful focus. 

Speaking of discipline you should have seen him, as cameras flashed and the video rolled, trying to hold it together like a strong sailor. In his words, “I cried like a girl.”

A few weeks later, we met them in Seattle. They were vacationing and we joined them to celebrate his birthday and be with the family. This was our first time being with him and his daughter together. I’m biased, but I think he is one of the most engaged fathers I have been around, and is equally involved in every part of the baby’s care—especially the loving part.

For my part, as a new grandfather, the first time I held that little girl she was only a few hours old. It may sound like a schmaltzy song but my heart opened up in a way it never has before and she crawled right in. I see the same has happened to Noah. 

Now I sit next to The Eagle Tree thinking about impermanence and Father’s Day. At first it felt incongruent, but as I sat with them, the two began to reconcile in my mind. 

I have seen an attitude change in our culture. The expectations of the father of my youth are different, in many ways, from today. There was a day when fatherhood meant providing for the family with food and shelter but not always being present in the family. When there were sons, he taught skills they would need to do the same. Now fathers are more involved in the daily care of the child. The permanence of old attitudes has evolved into a new norm.

When I think of Noah—all of us for that matter—I think about what was important and how, with life experience, perspectives change. As important as our ideas and beliefs were, they are not permanent either. Of course, that doesn’t mean they were wrong at the time; they, too, evolved. When I first met Noah, he was excited and proud, with good reason, of his hot new sports car. He told me about how fast it was, and how tight and flat it cornered. Today he drives an SUV; his needs have changed. His zest for life is intact, but like his ride, it takes a different form.

So, The Eagle Tree is down and the view along the trail is different but I’m sure there is another standing eagle tree somewhere. I will find it and hope it’s permanent enough to last for the next thirty years. If it isn’t, I hope I can be there to see the storm that proves it, too, is impermanent. 

One thing that is not impermanent is Alice’s place in Noah’s heart. Even that will grow and evolve into a larger and more expressive form of love. Happy Father’s Day Noah. 

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Author info

Ernie Hawks Ernie Hawks is a former theater director who has branched into the creative fields of writing and photography. He lives in a cabin in Athol with his lovely wife Linda, and feeds the birds in his spare time.

Tagged as:

fatherhood, eagles, Noah Huston, The Hawk's Nest, Father's Day

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