Grasshopper Soup: Keep your eagle-eye peeled
Nov. 13, 2009, was a spiffy Tahoe day. In Homewood, a bald eagle flew north, following highway 89. Early in the morning on Jan. 3, this year, a bald eagle flew east over Interstate 80, west of the Hirschdale exit. Bald eagle sightings are nothing new in Tahoe. I have seen at least six in the last three decades. Maybe they were all the same bird. It’s impossible to tell. You know bald eagles. They all look alike.
In Alaska, eagles are as common as blue jays and pine needles. Seeing several, if not hundreds at a time, is ordinary, but, even there, if you don’t look, you don’t see.
Up close, the majestic profile of a bald eagle is unmistakable. But, from afar, you can mistake one for a raven and never know what you missed.
Bird watching requires profiling. Profiling is a natural function of the mind as it familiarizes itself with objects in the universe. All humans profile. We do it with such natural ease, most of the time we don’t even think about it.
I saw a bald eagle in September of 2008 near Blue Canyon. It flew right over me. At first I thought it was a raven holding a white mouse in its beak. The mouse turned out to be the familiar white head feathers of an adult eagle. If I had not profiled the bird I would still be wondering what I saw, and if that raven ate the last white mouse in California. Profiling saved me from uncertainty, and rewarded me with another rare sight of the great bird.
I felt the 6.5 north coast earthquake Saturday. That sure took some profiling. At first I thought my mind was slipping, then my body swayed involuntarily. I saw the wall move and my dream catcher swing with a fresh caught dream before earthquake came to mind.
Profiling is as natural as choosing a mate, or turning one down. Ski instructors profile skiers. Employers profile job applicants. Golfers profile themselves and other golfers. Locals profile tourists, and vice versa. We profile cantaloupe to find a ripe one at the grocery store. But nobody profiles an airplane hijacker’s religion. That just doesn’t make any sense, unless some religions are allowed to blow up airplanes, and some aren’t.
Simply put, if you don’t profile, you can’t see. Misprofiling things can be very unpleasant, and cause a lot of trouble for yourself and others. When my brother and I were room mates in college, he went to gargle in the middle of the night and took a gulp of shampoo instead of Listerine. He was so mad at himself he had to laugh, but couldn’t, because it tasted so bad. He woke me up with non stop gasping, gagging, snorting and howling unlike anything I have ever heard before, or since.
I almost brushed my teeth with a thermometer once. I couldn’t spread toothpaste on it because the brush was missing. When I realized how close I came to scrubbing my teeth with a brittle tube of mercury, I decided to practice profiling so I could get better at it.
But there is a catch when profiling for airline security. Someone who doesn’t fit the profile could still be a threat. Also, we and our enemies are identical and#8212; we both think God is on our side. These weaknesses of profiling make eagle eye scrutiny all the more necessary.
Eagles don’t want to mistake a rock for a fish, so they profile their prey. Fish and mice don’t have an eagle eye, so they are easy prey.
In the wild, the eagle life span is only 15 to 20 years. In captivity they have been known to live to be 48 years old. Let’s do them all a big favor and catch them so they live longer (just kidding). Maybe we should all live more in the wild so there would be fewer of us.
The world is a wild place. Keep an eagle eye peeled. When we don’t profile, we give our enemy perfect camouflage. Without profiling, we may as well be blind.
Bob Sweigert is a Sierra Sun columnist, published poet, ski instructor and commercial driver. He’s lived at Lake Tahoe for 27 years.
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