It materialized out of nowhere, moving just above the Farmington River, right alongside me.
And I knew what it meant...and who it was.
My brother-in-law Paul vanished eight years ago this month and to date, has not been found.
Paul was an adventurer, wildlife aficionado and rugged outdoorsman, a modern day Jeremiah Johnson, the character played by Robert Redford in the hit movie of the same name. Paul and I exercised, hiked and skied together, always learning and drawing strength from each other.
I recently had the good fortune of meeting the gifted shaman healer Dr. Tom Garcia. Tom lives in Colorado, not far from where Paul lived at the time he disappeared. Not only do they look very much alike, but both were born the same year. The parallels are uncanny.
Tom and I had a wonderfully enriching conversation in October. He affirmed my belief that I still feel and draw strength from Paul's nature, energy and spirit, and gently urged me to always remain receptive to Paul.
The day after Tom and I spoke, I jumped on my bike for an epic journey into the desolate forest roads of northern Connecticut. I hammered along, clipping off mile after mile. The ride had plenty of demanding vertical climbs, thrilling descents and rapid sprints, with no sign of humanity. I was alone, enjoying the solitude, much like Paul enjoyed his solitude.
Deep into the 120-mile ride, I began to doubt my resolve, my fortitude, and my ability to finish.
And then the bald eagle appeared along the riverbed. The emblem bird of the United States, the eagle is a majestic and powerful bird of prey. On that beautiful fall day four months ago, the eagle was a majestic and powerful sign. The eagle beckoned me with its 6-foot wingspan, watching over me as I rode, offering to guide me home.
The poet Emerson reminds us that "nothing is ever wholly lost. That which is excellent remains forever a part of this universe."
I know Paul is not wholly lost. He remains a part of this universe and on that gloriously long ride, he paid me a visit.
May you fly like an eagle in 2022.
Carl Ficks helps busy professionals and their teams get back in the fitness game to reduce stress and increase productivity. He practiced law in New Britain for many years and is a proud member of the Generale Ameglio Society. He has run and cycled thousands of miles and competed in dozens of races, so when you're ready to get back in the game, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.