Just Keep Swimming

  • June 24, 2020

We live with a river not far from our back door. My office faces it and. as a result, I spend an inordinate amount of time staring out the windows. One day as I did, I saw a red tail hawk make an amazing high-speed almost vertical drop to the water. He rose carrying a prize in his claws—a little bird that wriggled and writhed in what looked like a doomed escape attempt.


But as I watched, both fascinated and horrified, the bird twisted out of the hawk’s grasp and fell back into the water. I ran outside and down to the river’s edge. As I darted forward toward the spot where the bird had fallen, I sensed something behind me. I turned and looked over my shoulder. An eagle was zeroing in on exactly where I was headed.


Then, he veered away. Something—maybe my sudden movement—had thrown him off his game. He left his would-be prey to swim another day. And swim she did, with an odd, herky-jerky style, round and round in the shallow water for several minutes.

Several times she attempted to climb up on some rocks, only to slip back into the water and flap about before making another wobbly approach to stable ground. On the fourth attempt, she made it.


I finally realized that my large human presence was probably even more alarming to her than the two predator birds who’d tried to make dinner of her. So, I left.


But I’ve thought about that little bird a lot. There she was enjoying her happy bird existence one minute, then fighting for her life the next. The hawk had come out of nowhere. She had no time to prepare. The predator was much larger and stronger, but she did what she had to at the moment. She gave her all to the fight, and she won.


But she had no time to recover, let alone rejoice. She had saved herself from one threat, only to be confronted immediately with an even bigger one. When the danger unexpectedly passed, she went back to swimming. Not in any particular direction at first, but she was moving. And really, if you’re going to stay afloat in life, what else can you do?


Things large and small swoop down on us daily. Sometimes they come so fast they knock us right off course, sometimes they just bump us around a little. Sometimes we fight and win, sometimes fortune takes pity on us. But through it all, that small feisty does what we all must do in life. Just keep swimming.