Sunday, February 19, 2017

A Prayer for the Eagles

This week's post was written by my daughter Anna Kocher, artist, musician, mother of three. The photos were taken by my friend George Tallman at Conowingo Dam, a large hydro-electric dam on the Susquehanna River, crossed by US Route 1 between Pennsylvania and Maryland. I am grateful to both for sharing their work and for their wise stewardship of unexpected beauty.

In response to Senate confirmation of Scott Pruitt as head of a the EPA and to the Audubon headline, The New Head of the EPA is a Major Threat to Birds and People:

When I was a kid, I remember being taught in school about our National Emblem, the Bald Eagle, and how it was in danger of becoming extinct. We learned that the Bald Eagle had nearly disappeared from the United States, and how important it was for us to reduce, reuse and recycle, etc. as our way of doing our part for the planet. What I didn't understand at the time was the role EPA regulations played in their protection.

My mother and other members of my family are avid bird-watchers and take great joy in recording their rare and unique sightings. I love to watch birds, for their beauty and freedom, but I'm not naturally a keeper of records or lists. I'm as happy watching a flock of pigeons as I am a pileated what-have-you. I always joke with my family when they get excited about a rare bird sighting, saying, "Don't even tell me unless it's a Bald Eagle!"

The other weekend my sister and I were driving home from DC, having gone down for the Women's March to be bodies in the crowd of millions of people trying to say, through our presence, "This is not ok with us. We have a voice and we are not alright with this." We were touched by the peaceful friendliness of the marchers.

After the march we spent a lovely night and morning at our brother's house, but on our way home on Sunday we hit a ton of traffic. So many others were also trying to return home after the march that traffic on 95 was crawling and I needed to get back to my kids. We took an unfamiliar detour and wound up crossing over the Conowingo Dam.

We were driving over the bridge with water on either side when all of a sudden my sister looked out and said, "Wait, what's that there?"

We both looked out and I spotted it too: a Bald Eagle, massive and regal on a branch hanging over the water. I started to scream and swerve (safely, within my lane) and we continued to look over the edge (while maintaining safe following distance). Then we saw another! And another! Eventually I had to drag my eyes back to the road, but my sister counted ten Bald Eagles!

I was so moved. I've seen a few Bald Eagles over the last few years, and have always reacted with an embarrassing level of excitement; but this was different. This was proof, with my own eyes, that a species had been successfully brought back from the brink by our society rallying, regulating, changing and choosing to do what was maybe less convenient in the moment in order to achieve a greater, future good.

If you've known me for any length of time you know that I'm not usually very political. I'm also not confrontational. I also don't like making phone calls. Doing things like speaking up about this kind of thing and making phone calls to my senators is a bit of a departure for me.

But for me, this is not about politics. I've never been a registered member of either of our country's leading political parties. It's also not about being liberal or conservative. I imagine many of you would accuse me of being too liberal and many of being too conservative.

It's about the deep disappointment and disgust I feel towards those in power for actively dismissing and dismantling those things I always, naively, thought we could all fundamentally agree upon, however different our opinions of how to achieve them: the common good, the future good, the protection of the vulnerable, the "just and proper use of your creation," as we say in my church.

Lately I've been saying a lot, old-lady style, semi-joking but mostly serious, to the possible chagrin of my family members, "Why do the wicked prosper?"

But I've been saying to myself with equal frequency the words Martin Luther King Jr. used when he said, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." That's what I'm praying for, and that's what I'm praying I'll learn how to work towards.

If you've made it this far in my little speech, thank you. Pour yourself a Friday night beverage, or Sunday afternoon tea, and let me know if you see any Bald Eagles.
In peace, we pray to you, Lord God.
For all people in their daily life and work;
For our families, friends, and neighbors, and for those who are alone.
For this community, the nation, and the world;
For all who work for justice, freedom, and peace.
For the just and proper use of your creation;
For the victims of hunger, fear, injustice, and oppression.
For all who are in danger, sorrow, or any kind of trouble;
For those who minister to the sick, the friendless, and the needy.
For the peace and unity of the Church of God;
For all who proclaim the Gospel, and all who seek the Truth.
For all who serve God in his Church.
For the special needs and concerns of this congregation.
Hear us, Lord;
For your mercy is great.