Today I pulled an eagle out of a drawer. There were three or four other eagles there, also female, but I was looking specifically for her. I recognized the handwriting on the tag, and turned it over for confirmation. Yes. She was lying on her back, neck extended, sharp claws crossed and secured. I carefully lifted her with two hands, and even though she is a skin—a shell, really, her organs and skeleton replaced with stuffing—I felt her weight. I wasn’t prepared for the eagle—for her size, for the impact that holding her in my hands would have on me.
Historians talk about material culture, about the importance of engaging non-textual sources in our work and in our teaching, but, holding her, I was almost giddy. It was more than that feeling that you’re looking at the coolest, biggest, weirdest thing in the archive; when you require the white gloves, a bigger book cradle, a stand for viewing large format photographs. She had been alive once. And I felt something. Connected through the feeling of her feathers on my fingers, the proximity to something I’d only ever encountered at a safe distance.
I often feel like a migrant, following my work to wherever it takes me. Right now, I’m in DC. Soon, Ithaca, for the arrival of spring, After that, Chicago. And then, home again? If Ithaca can be called that, yes. I’ve lived there for five years, but I know I will not stay. My future home is uncertain. And this is how the birds help me. They live in motion. When it is time to move again, I think I will find this comforting. Maybe home doesn’t need to be a place. Maybe having a cycle, a rhythm governing change, is enough.
- Source theappendix.net