Monday, April 25, 2011

Love Lift Us Up Where We Belong By Jolina Petersheim

Jolina Petersheim's blog, The Happy Book Blog, at a year old has been featured twice on Southern author River Jordan’s Clearstory Radio. Currently it is syndicated with The Tennessean's "On Nashville" Blogroll, featured under author Jessica McCann’s “Stuff for Writers,” award-winning freelance writer Melissa Crytzer-Fry’s Blogroll and numerous other creative writing sites. Jolina lives in the mountains of Tennessee with her Mohican-man husband, their 40 acres of untamed territory, and one unruly but lovable Southern novel-in-progress set on a tobacco plantation in northwest Tennessee.

Love Lift Us Up Where We Belong

It almost felt like we were Peeping Toms as my husband and I clustered around the computer screen, avidly watching the most intimate details of this young family’s life for the twentieth time in less than ten days. We laughed when the couple picked on each other, fretted when their offspring didn’t seem to be thriving the way we thought they should, wondered if all of them would be able to stand the harsh elements pervading their setting, and secretly questioned the parents’ abilities to keep their three offspring alive.

No, we weren’t watching the latest “reality” TV show churned out by Hollywood, but a family of bald eagles my husband had discovered through an online live cam. I had caught him watching them last Sunday, and although at first I couldn’t understand the draw, I soon became as addicted to their interactions as he. The mother and father shared the responsibility of their brood: the one sat on the hatchlings while the other flew over the dense Iowan woods--scouring it for rabbits, ravens, and even a fish whose scales reflected like tiny mirrors angled toward the sun. It actually took my breath as the mother/father (I still cannot tell them apart) ripped hunks of meat from their partner’s latest catch and carefully depositing it into their offspring's uplifted, chirping mouths.

Last evening, before I went for a walk in the graveyard, I watched one of the hatchlings teeter toward the edge of the nest on unsteady claws and flapping, downy wings. Less than five minutes later, when I was tying my tennis shoes, my husband called from the office, “Honey! C’mere! Quick!”

When I came into the office and looked at the screen, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Both of the parents were in the six foot, one and a half ton nest, and they were balancing a tree branch between their yellow beaks. One of them then took it from the other and put it at the edge of the nest where the hatchling had just been.

“They’re doing that to keep the babies from falling out,” my husband explained. I told him to call if they did anything else exciting, and I’d come tearing back.

Sometimes when I walk to the graveyard beside our apartment, I completely forget why it is there. Encamped by rolling hills, swaying saplings covered with pink cotton ball blossoms, and soaring mountains, it seems no more a place for the dead as Mars is for the living. But last evening, it was different. I guess it was because I was tired, and that bald eagle family had gotten me thinking about family life in general. I guess part of it had to do with the past month and a half, and though I don't want to go into much detail to protect those it is more greatly affecting, I will say that it has been one of the toughest experiences of my life.

So, instead of trucking up and down that paved pathway, I walked onto the grass and swatted down before the gravestones. I looked at the cameoed photograph of a woman who’d died when she was years younger than I, yet born a decade before the birth of my own mother. I traced my fingers over the dates of the departed, and my heart ached for the couple who’d been severed by death because the other half of their whole had kept on living. In their photo, although neither of them were really smiling, I could see the love they’d shared in the way she put an arm around his shoulders, and the way he gently clasped it with one of his callused hands.

The sun was setting behind the distant hills, so I decided to head back toward our apartment. After spending a day wearing long sleeves in eighty degree weather, I’d also decided it was time to switch out my winter and summer clothes. This is a task I despise more than any other; I would rather alphabetize the contents of my refrigerator than sort and refold all of my clothing. Despite this, I lugged all of my summer totes into our bedroom, started shucking sweaters from hangers, then paused and walked into the living room. I needed some music to get me going. Feeling slightly sentimental, I scrolled down through the playlists on my laptop until I found the one I sought: Wedding Mix.

Singing off-key to Frank Sinatra, Billy Joel, Air Supply, and Dan Folgelberg, I suddenly got a second wind and soon had two totes completely emptied into drawers and refilled with sweaters. Then a new song began to play: “Love Life Us Up Where We Belong.” Because of what has transpired over the past month and a half, the lyrics resonated with me in a way they never have before. It spoke of living in a world where few hearts survive, how long the road is, how there are mountains in our way, but that love would lift us up to a place where -- and here I even got goose bumps -- eagles cry on a mountain high.

Needless to say, I was knocked into an emotional abyss before the second verse. Recalling that husband and wife gravestone when she’s not even dead, I began getting teary-eyed. Then I recalled how it said at the very bottom, “To know him was to love him,” and those tears, they started rolling.

Darting into the office, I stretched my arms out toward my husband and blubbered, “To know you is to love you!”

My husband, still watching the bald eagle family in between listing eBay items, looked back at me standing there with tears streaming down my face and said, “What? What happened?”

I pointed toward our bedroom and half-laughed/half-sobbed, “That song! Regardless of what we face, love will lift us up to a mountain high!” I then pointed to the computer screen where the father/mother eagle was tenderly feeding his/her young. “Just like them! Just like that bald eagle family!”

My husband pushed his rolling chair out from beneath the desk and stood. “Oh my, honey,” he said, “you’re really tore up.”

Wiping my face on my long shirtsleeve, I laughed, “I know! I don’t even know what happened!”

He walked with me back to our bedroom, which was strewn with chunky knit sweaters and sleeveless tanks. Reaching out his finger, he tapped down the volume on my laptop.

“Don’t!” I hollered. “I like it loud!”

“I know, but the song’s making you cry,” he said.

I wrapped my arms around him and looked up, “Yes, but these are happy tears, Randy. Happy tears. I’m just so, so blessed.”

Now, as I write this out on our land, my husband is strengthening our future home -- our love nest, if you will -- and I am sitting in the sun after having helped him pick up pieces of siding and fascia. And I know, regardless of how long our journey together is, how many mountains present themselves as we travel it, that love will continually lift us up to a place where we belong...just like those eagles.

(Live cam for bald eagles can be found here.)


Sharon's Garden of Book Reviews said...

How awesomely beautiful! Gotta love a tender-hearted girl! Thanks for sharing this!

Mary said...

A wonderful post. We've been watching the eagle family for several weeks - amazing!

Melissa Crytzer Fry said...

SO happy to see you on Rebecca's blog, Jolina. I love the eagle story and am so glad you've posted a link to the webcam. Your bird love story theme is so fitting for Rebecca's novel!

About the Author said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jolina Petersheim said...

Hi, Mary--my husband and I love watching those eagles, too. It helps put life into perspective. Despite all the hustle and bustle of traffic below them (you can see the highway in the distance), those birds are just up there doing what they've been made to do. Wish it was that easy for humans!

Jolina Petersheim said...

Hello, Sharon,

I'm so glad you enjoyed this, and yes...I'm a very tender-hearted girl, but it probably doesn't help that I keep taking my walks in a graveyard! ;)

Jolina Petersheim said...

Thank you, Melissa! If it hadn't been for you, I would've never gotten to know dear Rebecca! I can't wait to read her novel; everything about it -- the sisters, the setting, the subject -- shouts, "Read me!"

Jessica said...

Bird Sisters, indeed! I've read this piece before, and I still get misty-eyed now. What a perfect post for Rebecca's blog. Beautiful, beautiful words, Jolina.

Jolina Petersheim said...

Hello, dear Jessica! Thank you for stopping by and rereading this post. When I found this site (through Melissa), I thought this bald eagle family needed to find a home on Rebecca's wonderful The Bird Sisters blog!

Hope you have a great day!


Queen Bee's Musings said...

Great post... We have eagles here and about our ranch and was very excited to know many have found this cam. The people who set that up did a wonderful thing as well!

Jolina Petersheim said...

Hello, Queen Bee!

Yes, it's been absolutely amazing how many people have been drawn to the bald eagle family. I think it has something to do with how calm they are in a world that's becoming increasingly chaotic. Thank you for stopping by!


J.J.Brown said...

What a rare window into the love and dependency creatures share between parent and young. Thanks for sharing this tender moment in your own family with me.

Jolina Petersheim said...

Aren't those birds amazing, J.J.? I wish everyone had the opportunity to watch them, for I feel we can all learn so much from the family's kindness. Thanks so much for stopping by!


Leslie said...

That's a beautiful story, thanks for sharing it with us.

I just adore the eagles... I've been watching them since they hatched. I check on their progress every day. Nature is so amazing.

Jolina Petersheim said...

Thank you, Leslie, for your kind words and for reading. My husband and I also check on their progress. It's amazing how much the hatchlings are eating now, isn't it? My husband jokes that the parents are soon going to bring them a cow. ;)

Gigi said...

Jolina, It's so amazing how birds (and other wildlife) get into our hearts and become "ours"! I love your post, and your reflection on your life, and the future and the past. Thanks for sharing. This was a welcome respite today!

Jolina Petersheim said...

Your kind words mean so much, Gigi. Thank you! I do agreed that wildlife helps put life back into perspective (even death, too). Whenever I'm having a bad writing day -- or bad day, period -- I love to just go outdoors. It's amazing the respite nature can be. Thanks for reading!

"These are the days when Birds come back/a very few/a Bird or two/to take a backward look."

"These are the days when Birds come back/a very few/a Bird or two/to take a backward look."