In Search of Better Stories

Eagles, Angels And Anzacs

The baldies have it in for the seagull. An absolutely frenetic aerial display over False Creek this morning. A hundred other seagulls are cheering their mate on. He manages to stay a talons reach away from the eagles, banking, arcing and diving in a desperate struggle to survive. The alpha predators of the air take shifts in the chase. The gull is faster, but he can’t keep this pace forever. Slowly, he will tire and then it will be over. The pursuit moves west down the channel. I squint to see the final outcome, but my eyes fail me.

Meanwhile, a couple of homeless drug addicts have managed to evade the security guard. They sit protected from the rain under the Science World overhang. The duo is young, hunched over, dishevelled and slow-moving. Their worldly possessions reduced to a couple of bags and a pull-behind cart. They seem to be doing OK. They have a reprieve from the rain, and they are together. Drug addiction combined with homelessness is such a lonely business. This relationship won’t last; they never do, but for now, they sit closely together; he holds the radio as she sings Fleetwood Mac songs. She has a beautiful voice. The moment is surreal. As the eagles try to kill a seagull, I hear:

I took my love, I took it down
I climbed a mountain, and I turned around
And I saw my reflection in the snow-covered hills
Till the landslide brought me down

What landslide brought her down, I wonder? A bad dad? A fragmented family? Poor friend choices? She’s an angel in rags headed for the scrap heap. Who knows, she’s young; maybe she will turn her life around yet. They get up. They know they can’t stay. They have to keep moving, always moving. Her pink hair catches the breeze as they slowly gather up their things; she’s wearing a battered pair of leopard print pyjamas, high heels, and three or four coats to keep out the cold. They hobble off in the other direction. I’m sad; I’d wished to thank her for her songs.

What’s happening now?

Five well-dressed people, four men and one woman arrive. They chat amicably precisely where the homeless people were a few minutes ago. One of them positions an iPhone and a speaker on the ledge. Taps begins to play after a short introduction. They all snap to attention; stoically, they stare out over False Creek. There is a long moment of silence then the lone trumpet starts up again. Clearly, it’s some sort of commemorative ceremony. The word “New Zealand” drifts on the wind to my ears. Perhaps it’s remembrance day for that country? I do a quick google search. Yup, today is Anzac day. These are five New Zealanders honouring their war dead. The moment is over now. Well dressed, clean-cut, successful designer coffee’s in their hands, they linger, standing properly spaced chatting and laughing together. They are strong, confident, beautiful people.

My morning has been interrupted by eagles, angels, and Anzacs. I don’t mind, but then a thought slams into my mind. Why am I writing about them?

Had the angel never sang her song, would I have ever written about her? No, I would have barely noticed her, and my only thought would likely have been one of mild disgust. Her voice catapulted her into my consciousness and caused in me emotions of care and gratitude.

Had the group of New Zealanders only ambled by, I would have taken no notice. It was their settled resolve to honour the memory of others who sacrificed all for their freedom that inspired me to write about them.

If the eagle and the gull had merely been flying overhead, a passing glance is all they would have got from me. It was their violent life and death struggle that compelled me to lift up my head and watch with interest.

Why am I touched by these observations? Why am I compelled to write?

  • Today I saw beauty coming from ashes, and I was reminded not to dismiss people based on a cursory judgmental glance.
  • Today I saw gratitude from busy professionals who made time to honour the fallen, and I was reminded that gratitude is the central building block for human flourishing.
  • Today I saw the raw and unvarnished struggle for life, and I was reminded that none of us are exempt from predators, risk, or major challenges. We must all do the best we can to fly even when the sky is filled with danger. Who knows, we may live to tell the tale. We must take to the skies embracing the adventure of life!
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4 Responses

  1. Wise words, my friend. You had me especially with the beauty you saw in the ashes, your own gratitude solidly underlying your observations.

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