When still just a toddler of three, with curly brown chin length hair and a pug nose, if asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, she knew immediately. “I want to be a frog!” Not Kermit-the-frog, no, one of the slippery, slimy, hopping, croaking toads that she managed to touch with her very own bare hands, while at the pond at Aunt Polly’s Farm.
Across the field from the big white Farm House, in the tall weedy grasses, crouched down in her toddler squat, mesmerized by the salamanders squirming about. The dank smell of wet reeds slowly disintegrating into the water, the squishy cool feel of the pond mud between her bare toes, the sound of water splashing as she attempted her capture of the salamander and then the frog – a toad actually.
Her bare hands around his fat middle, surprised by the feel of his skin, at once rough and slimy. Kerplunk! right out of her hands and into the water, cleverly concealing himself among the grasses and pond scum. Eyes only visible now, to the trained viewer.
Fifty years later, when asked, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ she still knows the answer precisely, “A large broad-winged raptor!” – A golden eagle who nests in the cliffs and soars on the orographic uplifts in hunt for the wary snowshoe hare, hidden in his white coat for the winter. – An osprey with her pole top nest, black striped mask, soaring above the mountain reservoir hunting for fish in the high winds. – A bald eagle with her dazzling white headdress, piercing yellow eyes, beak the shape of a meat hook, feet the size of a human palm with talons as long as fingers, stunning her rabbit prey to death from the shock of being swept into the air in their grasp. – Or the red-tailed hawk with her fierce shriek that echoes across the valley floor between the red cliff canyon walls, her brown beady eyes full of predatory vigilance, her rusty red fan shaped tail that glows orange when backlit by the sun. – Or the sharp-shinned hawk with her silent stealth, plucking the passerine out of the air without a sound, a single feather slowly wafting to the ground the only trace of her success. Soaring above the tall pines and Douglas firs in small circles, buffy belly and underside wings barred in stripes of white and brown, her extra long straight tail her signature ID.
Yes, definitely, to be re-incarnated as a broad winged raptor. To feel the thrill of flying, the wind rustling her feathers, as she soars above the mountain ridgeline, above the tip top of the pine boughs, inhabiting that high wild realm, closest to the stars.