I was climbing in Alabama at a place called Sand Rock. A labyrinth of high stone formations, people have made their mark with graffiti and cut their lovers' initials into its trees.
A young teenager in a boy scout troop, I awoke at sunrise. Opening my eyes to a dewy and wet tent wall, I felt unusually restless. I had to get out and move, so I stepped into a dense fog as I slide from the tent. Scanning the camp, I realized even the leaders were asleep. I couldn't believe I woke up before the early bird adults, but I had a strange positive and content energy that I only get during sunrise.
Walking to relieve myself at wood's edge, I find an overgrown trail covered by branches. A natural born explorer, I follow it a short way through trees and arrived to a rock bluff, flat and at least 200 square feet. It drops off at a cliff, into a thick fog. Across this grey sea, another bluff mysteriously stands separated from my formation, a coupe yards across the fog. Then I realize a bald eagle is perched on that rock, not more than 300 feet away watching me all this time. I was shocked. It was my first sighting of a wild eagle, and meant a great deal as boy scout. I slowly sat down on the rock and returned the birds keen gaze.
The eagle stares, continuously at me, motionless. It reminded me of the staring contests I'd have with my 8 years older brother. I knew eagles were large, but it wasn't just large. It looked strong. I begin to realize this eagle not only looks - but feels strong. It simply wasn't going to break eye contact - and made me respect its presence. Never looking away, I took it as a challenge. I wasn't going to lose this contest.
After at least five minutes of this, the eagle breaks contact. It looks around, slightly spreads its wings, and dives down - entering the crevasse between the bluffs to disappear in the sea of fog. Quieter than a mouse, it reminded me of the great horned owls around my home. Friends around the campfire have always said the owls are my spirit animal...
I sit stunned and begin to question if I just experienced a spiritual moment. The day begins to warm as the sun rises higher. The backdrop of grey fog begins to clear and gradually - an entire valley is revealed before my eyes. The foot of the mountain gave way to a lake and forests hundreds of feet below and I stand silent.
I lead my leaders to the spot and we had our regular Sunday morning chapel there. (BSA is very Christian oriented, god is even in the scout oath)
Having questioned my faith for a few years, I sat at chapel half believing the lesson. It's all things I've heard twenty times before back in my southern home in Georgia. I realize that this sense of individuality identified with the eagle... And begin to feel like the eagle staring - outside of this manufactured religion that others have manifested and welded to their lives. (if you disagree, to each his own)
I've always viewed the eagle as a symbol of power as probably most US citizens do. Its something engrained in us from birth. Yet, I feel egotistical to claim a powerful symbol as your spirit animal. Should I see this as a sign and use it somehow, or do you think it was just a coincidence?
I found a picture of the location - take a look if you like and thanks for reading!