As little Catholic kids, we were trained to look for signs of God’s presence in ourselves and in others. I also trained myself to look for signs from other little girls in my life. By fourth grade, I had totally secularized divination into a lifelong habit.
But after November 8, I swore off signs. I had been so wrong about the election; I doubted my abilities. I had misread the enthusiasm gap. I had ignored the total lack of Hillary signage and swag. I had even dismissed the vandalism of my own Hillary sign in Provincetown as a mere prank.
For some people, coming out for Hillary was as awkward and hard as coming out as gay. I ignored that. I let it slide that there were just four of us at a Hillary headquarters in Tampa, Florida, the weekend before the election and that every other call I made from my authorized phone bank list was not in service.
The warning signs could have been billboard size. They could have been old Burma-Shave road signs: “Stay awake. Though Trump’s a flake. If you snooze. Hill could lose.” The signs were all there.
In the early blue morning hours, I can still work up a good head of shame for my pathetic denial. But it has forced me to be much more reality-based in my sign-reading.
At 6:30 on the morning of the twenty-fifth day of America Held Hostage, I was fuzzy-headed, sitting in my little kitchen in Manhattan having a cup of coffee. I had slept in. It was a miracle.
For months, screaming red banners of Waking News! chyroned madly across my REM-less sleep and jolted me awake at 3 a.m. I could never get back to sleep. If I counted sheep jumping over a fence, they became refugees trying to jump over a wall. If I tried to meditate, I would end up fantasizing things to do to Betsy DeVos with a ruler. My spiritual practice is a bust. Who tells NPR’s Krista Tippett from “On Being” to shut the eff up? I would give up and get up. By noon, I would be cranky and despairing.
Yogi Bedtime Tea changed all that. Valerian is my new drug of choice. Until it comes in edible shooters, I’m double-bagging my hot elixir-fixer each night. I am a proud Teabagger.
That morning, even though I was two hours short of the doctor-recommended eight hours sleep, I felt rested. I was happily unfocused and fighting the urge to check the day’s mellow-harshing headlines. Suddenly, I sensed motion near the tall building across the way. Just as I focused, a large bird landed on a ladder bolted to the side of a water tower on top of the building. It shifted a bit on its perch, refluffed its wings and settled. It was an eagle.
As I rummaged around trying to find my old bird-watching binocs, I looked up just as an even larger, flashier eagle landed on top of the water tower. Both faced out to the Hudson. Not to get too anthropomorphic on you, but the birds seemed grateful for the earlier light of the morning and for what I imagined was an awesome view of the river.
It has not been an easy time for the American eagle.
Of course, the American eagle has it way better than its avian cousin to the north, the Canada goose. That poor thing has been plucked naked, feathers blown into pricey winter coats with geese decals on the sleeve. This warm winter, Manhattan looks as if it’s been invaded by some rogue unit of sweating Royal Canadian Mounties in town for a global warming deniers convention.
And sure, there’s that inspirational documentary, The Eagle Huntress, about a thirteen-year-old girl who was the first woman to catch an eagle, train it, and win the Mongolian eagle version of the Westminster Kennel Club Show.
I could have read all kinds of signs into those eagles. They were signs of renewed national pride. Or signs of survival from endangered species status. Or signs of birds displaced and buffeted by the crazy, unpredictable wind shear of Hurricane Donald. But some early spring mornings, eagles are just eagles.