Learning to look beyond our line of sight
Obsessed isn’t the right word, but my family has become, let’s say, enamored with the Eagle Cam. You probably know the one. Perched high in an aerie above Decorah, Iowa, a family of bald eagles, including three recently hatched eaglets, are proceeding with their daily lives, blissfully unaware they are the stars of a new reality show. And it’s a hit.
I was introduced to the Eagle Cam by my daughter, whose class has been keeping tabs on this patriotic family of predators, but the live stream is now marching across social media faster than Grumpy Cat.
It’s not uncommon now for the backdrop of our dinner conversation or evening homework rituals to include silent, beak-to-beak feeding of squirrel viscera or the devastatingly adorable snuggling of cotton-clad eagle babies keeping warm in their gusty perch.
It’s captivating because it is an uncommon sight. Plus, the pairing of the hunters’ implacability with their gentle parenting creates a lovely paradox, albeit perfectly ordinary in nature. It’s difficult to stop watching because you don’t want to miss what comes next, and that is where this conversation dovetails (see what I did there?) with a discussion about writing.
Great storytelling makes us long to know what comes next. I wrote briefly about this regarding the mystery that can be created through perspective. The eagles are interesting because they are unpredictable, and we don’t know how their story ends. It is still being written.
Even more, we often are drawn as readers to what is unique. As writers, it’s important to challenge ourselves to discover the stories that lie beyond our line of sight. Sometimes, that’s literal, such as a biopic about raptors living in the trees above our heads.
It can also be figurative. The bullied child. The homeless woman. The unseen act of kindness. The secret identity of a true hero.
I advocate for unlikely storytelling because I view writing and reading as a way to explore the unknown in the world around us as well as within our innermost thoughts. There may be no better method for learning than a story – and that goes for writing as well as reading.
I have learned a few practical things about eagles by watching them on video. They build strong nests. They are nurturing. They are powerful. They work as a team.
I have also learned that by veering from the norm and looking in unexpected directions, I might find a compelling story. I have the Decorah eagles to thank for that.
And now that I’ve become invested in their lives, I hope their story ends well.