Finding the Eagle Within

I recently read an archaeological news article online about the discovery of evidence of a lost Roman legion in a forest in Germany, the site of a decisive battle during the Roman Empire. Metallurgical traces of the legion’s lost eagle were even recovered. 

The Lost Eagle

The mounted golden eagle was the battle standard that legions of Roman soldiers carried into battle with them. It was the symbol of the essence of Rome, its majesty and power. If the eagle of the legion was not recovered, it was a great dishonor. The memory of such a legion was buried amongst their contemporaries, but lived on in the annals of historians. In a way, centuries later, though Rome has long fallen, the eagle has been found and the legion restored. 

In Rosemary Sutcliffe’s novel, The Eagle of the Ninth, and the film “The Eagle” which is based upon it, a young Roman soldier seeks to reclaim his father’s honor and his own sense of purpose by going on an arduous mission to find the lost eagle of his father’s fallen legion.

In my own life, I often feel like I, like Sutcliffe’s Marcus Aquila, am trying to reclaim something that I’ve lost. Ironically, given my name’s meaning in an indigenous language is ‘swiftly flying eagle’. I’ve seen eagles in flight, and they sail upon the air climbing the heights with commanding calm. That’s not me, at least not all of the time, not as much as I would like it to be. 

I am naturally imaginative and bold, and innately curious about the world around me and new things. These qualities have, in some ways, led to my greatest heartbreaks, failures, and conflicts.

Exploring what’s new and what fascinates me, and pursuing ambitions has pulled me away from being present with myself and those whom I care about. Trusting the wrong people who have entered my life along the way has broken my heart, and also hurt the people who care about me by having to watch me be hurt. Wrong turns have derailed and delayed my goals. In my pursuit to explore the world around me, in my openness to others, I have made several mistakes.

New Beginnings and Redemption

Rosemary Sutcliffe’s young hero Marcus is disabled due to a leg injury incurred in battle. He finds himself barred from the life he chose for himself and excelled at, that of a Roman soldier. Still, he manages to find purpose and redemption for himself, and posthumous honor for his father, by undertaking and completing the quest for the eagle of the lost legion. Rome, as I see it, was a cruel mistress, only taking into account the defeat of the legions who lost their eagle. In the modern world, we honor effort and allow for redemption and new beginnings. Marcus was able to achieve these things even in a world that didn’t create space for it.

I long to find my own “eagle”, again. As the golden eagle symbolized the might of Rome, I long to find within the majesty and serenity of the great bird that I am named after. Eagles rise above even the strongest storm winds, with graceful strength. I am often battered by storms within, of doubt, anxiety, and regret. My peace of mind and confidence are not gone, but often need to be sought in perilous territory-like Sutcliffe’s fictional eagle-or excavated from the heart of the forest-like that of the real life fallen legion that was recently found. 

“Carry Your Scars Lightly”

Right now, the only approach I know to take is what Marcus Aquila recommended to his companion, Esca. Esca, a former slave, is freed after going on the quest for the eagle with Marcus, but his legal status is still second class citizenship and he is understandably unhappy about this. Marcus tells him that he can relate, because he feels similarly  about his leg, but the two of them must learn how to “carry (…their)  scars lightly.”

To me, that means seeing tending to what hurts when we must, but taking full advantage of whatever respite from it we are granted to seize the day: to take on challenges, pursue goals, be present and appreciate those we care for and who care for us, enjoy the things we love about life and live with freedom and grace, as if nothing is stopping us. The future need not be the evil twin of the past. If we are honest with ourselves, if we make note of our accomplishments and continue to face life with an open mind….

Then I hope, I pray, I believe that what has been lost will be reclaimed, and the eagle within will swiftly fly, once again. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: