Updated: Dec 10, 2021
(This has been updated at the bottom with links to all the crazy aftermath.)
Just yesterday I started figuring that it was only a matter of time before I found myself in an altercation with an eagle or an osprey. When I was swimming yesterday, I saw one of each chase and fight each other. That's when I started thinking that it's gotta happen to me at some point. Now that I've been putting in so much time in the water since I got my new wetsuit, I started seeing my bobbing head from the eagle's point of view, and that my stupid head must look like an enticing simple surface meal.
Earlier in my swim I had an osprey zip past me skimming the water, and also a Canadian Goose bust off from the flock to circle me low and close as well...you know, where you can hear their wings break through the air.
Add into that all the fish that I was watching jump and break the surface of the water while I was in there, and my gut told me today was the day. The eagle was circling closer and closer, so the inevitability became crystal clear.
Robert O'Toole Photography... (This is what I had barreling down on me!)
By the time the eagle swooped down at me, full tilt, talons lowered, and skimming the surface of the water, it just seemed obvious, so I wasn't shocked, or in panic in anyway. It was more just...
"I guess this is what I'm dealing with now."
A familiar feeling I've come to know all too well. I've had so many similar encounters that the adrenaline spike does not interfere with calm peacefulness. They actually fill me with peace when one would expect the opposite.
If I'm gonna be taken from the world, I'm very accepting of it being through the natural world in the natural cycle of life. I've made that peace long ago. You can't go sneaking up on large wildlife with any other mindset. Right or wrong, that's at least how I see it, and what I carry with me when I do so.
Animal attacks in the bush happen fast, and just like any natural animal attack I have dealt with, the first split second moments were spent in complete captivating awe. It was so gorgeous, I couldn't really believe it. Good gawd, it was amazing!
(**The one that wasn't really like that was when I got stalked by the cougar that I scared up a tree by accident without knowing it was there. It was that close to me, and seemed a bit gnarly.)
The image of it coming at me will be burned into my head for probably the rest of my life. It was so exhilarating. I loved it. The moment between when it first stretched out to attack me, and when I finally started into the fight back, was one of pure bliss. I was awe-stricken by how gorgeous it was. I wish I could have been frozen in time. It was that magikal.
It was only split-seconds, but maaan, were they ever good ones. The need to fight back jolted me out of the kind floaty cloud it had me drifting on. I got to it just in time.
Photo my friend Janelle took last week...
There's not too much I could do being far out in the river, and I was aware of that, so all I could really do was yell and wave my arms. I was laughing while I was doing it though. What can I say, it was cool as fuck!
I was immediately processing what kind of damage I could be in for on my head and hands/arms. I didn't think it would be that bad. I'm willing to take gashes on the face-head-arms-hands, but the one thing that stood out was the possibility of it getting at my eyes. That was really the only point of concern.
**I've had a lifelong fascination with bald eagles, so something like getting a broken arm from fighting off one while I was out in the river preparing for what I am trying to do, is something I am more than OK with. I'll even go as far as to say it would be a dream come true in a sense to have that kind of encounter along the journey. All good on my end...just stay away from my eyes. (Giggle.)
The yelling (and laughing) and waving my arms didn't deter it.
"Oh, shiiit! How's this gonna play out?!"
I've had that happen with bears full-tilt charging me too, where they're not stopping, and I instinctively start bracing for impact and the impending chaos, only to have them swerve at the very last second.
Since the yelling and arm waving wasn't doing anything, the only thing I had left to come up with was splashing water at it. That didn't seem to do anything either, so I was like...
"Shiiit, it's on mutherfuckerrr!!"
Old photo, same location...
At the very last second, like many bears in the bush, the eagle swerved, but not before getting close enough for me to hit it with the water.
While that was happening, I was still lucid enough to recall and play the images in my head of the mama bear that was snorting and hissing, jumping up and down right in front of me, and then turned to face me, and look at me eye-to-eye to stare me down, close enough that I could slap her in the face without even a fully outstretched arm or moving my feet. (That was actually spectacular. I got really high from the adrenaline from that encounter.)
So, by the skin of my teeth, or perhaps, more aptly, the skin of my skull, I avoided that rundown, but as soon as it passed me, it jammed on the brakes and circled back. The fucker was full tilt yellin' at me, and continuously dive-bombing me.
All I had was, "yell and splash!" That's it!
I was too far out in the water, so I had to fight it off while still being conscious enough to make my way to the shore, so I could stand up and it saw how big I was.
It kept coming at me the entire time until I finally fought it off long enough to get to shore.
Quite honestly, I freakin' loved it. My lifelong fascination with eagles, since I first drew one when I was four or five years old on Wilhelm Street in Wasaga Beach, came flooding in. I even took time to reflect upon living with nests around me on Saturna Island on the coast. (It's really fascinating how much the human brain can process so quickly.)
In the midst of the melee, the past memories were still crystal clear, and I was personally still, calm and peaceful within. I loved it. The thing was so fierce and powerful, but just so simply beautiful.
I was in awe!!
I posted this when I got back up to my place...
Once again, I am reminded of the beauty that keeps coming into my life. I am blessed, that's for sure.
Maaaan, that was amazing!!
**A video I made telling this story of the eagle while I was out treading water a week later...
**Post Edit: CBC caught wind and talked to me on the radio for a quick little interview...
**The follow-up post I wrote in reflection of the encounter...
**Fast written posts about each swim. (No editing)
**Video of me telling the whole story in a podcast clip recorded in late August.
Robert O'Toole Photography online...
On the Web