Life Blocks

A female American Bald Eagle (Florida subspecies) roosting in her nest in Ouachita Parish.

Everyone I know has been talking about Bucket Lists since the movie of the same name came out in 2007.  As if the concept of a ist of goals was new, everyone seemed to be obsessed with their own “bucket lists.” But I’ve had one for as long as I can remember, if by another name. 

Bob Alexander called the “life blocks,” that checklist everyone has of things they want to do before they die. You do something on the list and you put a check in the block beside that item. An example:

__ Meet the president.

__ Go backstage at a major rock concert.

__ Eat at The French Laundry.

And you place a check next to each one as you complete it. At the end of your life, you look back. If more boxes are checked than unchecked, good job. If you checked all of them, either you had a really great run or missed the point of the exercise all together.

In the interest of disclosure, the above four items are among the fifty or so items on my own list of Life Blocks. So far (from those four), I’ve done three. (Sorry Thomas Keller. I’m working on that one.)

The other day, I got to check off a major life block and I didn’t have to leave Ouachita Parish to do so.

Mike and I heard from a friend about the presence of an American Bald Eagle’s nest not far from Monroe. I’ve wanted to see one since I was lucky enough to have enjoyed a close encounter with captive eagles in a large aviary. To see one from four feet is amazing enough. Seeing one in the wild, though, would truly be something special.

We trekked out to the supposed area where “you’ll see it from the highway” and “you just can’t miss it.” True to form, there she was, towering over a field from inside a stand of trees. A mile away from the highway, the white head of a brooding mother eagle glistened in the afternoon sunlight.

A quick talk with the owner of the land and we had permission to get as close as we were legally allowed — 100 meters on foot or 200 meters in a motor vehicle. Anywhere we went around her nest, she watched us. Occasionally, I could hear her mate cackling away in the thicket. Then, we saw him too.

Soaring is such a cliched word, yet no other word quite describes it. Majestic comes to mind as well. Watching the male bald eagle wing his way over the field did little but reinforce my understanding of why our forefathers chose this bird as our national emblem.

Coming home that night, it left me wondering. If I didn’t have to leave the parish to check off that life block, was I maybe setting my sights just a little bit too low? Then I got home and looked at the photographs I had taken. There, staring back from the screen, was a resounding “No.”

___ See bald eagle in the wild. Check.

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