I spent last week in the company of an eagle named Victor. And every time he turned his piercing eyes towards me, I couldn’t help but wonder: what does it mean to be wild?
It all started because Victor, you see, was born in captivity. He didn’t have much of a choice. White-tailed eagles like him – also called sea eagles – disappeared from most of Western Europe about 200 years ago.
Their territory shrunk as ours expanded. They started hunting in the lands claimed by humans, and conflict inevitably arose. They were soon declared a pest. Shot down, poisoned, or victim of ingesting poisoned baits destined to kill other predators – wolves mostly – they vanished from our skies.
Today, a few remain in the wild, in Greece, Norway, Scotland and further East. The rest – the ones you are most likely to see – are raised in captivity. Which brings us back to Victor, who spends most of his time in an aviary in France.
But Victor is no ordinary eagle. Not only has he learned to fly almost like a wild eagle, he could even be described as a film star and cameraman. He is one of the stars of the movie Freedom.
He can carry a camera on his back to show us what it feels like to soar in the skies. And he can act to perfection, flying from spot A to spot B, performing amidst human actors, as the cameras shoot his scripted movements again and again.
And so the question arises: is Victor wild?
You might think that I am asking an irrelevant question, given that any animal living in captivity is – by definition – no longer wild. And even more so for an animal that has been trained to respond to human commands. And yet my question goes deeper.
On the last day of our little filming expedition*, Victor landed on my arm. And in that instant, I felt an explosion. The depth of power and majesty pulsating through that winged being blew apart any previous projections I may have had about what an “eagle” is.
It suddenly became clear to me that despite external circumstances he would always remain untamed, unconditioned… in short: wild. Not as an outer condition in the way he lived in the world, but as an inner energetic state of being.
And that brought me to wonder what had happened to our own “wildness”.
For many people the wild is synonymous with the madness of the dark woods, the discomfort of an environment that is out-of-control. An environment that needs to be brought to order by human hands. A frightening state of being, from which to stay as far away as possible.
But for some of us, the wild exerts an irresistible pull. A fascination of what we may discover beyond the boundaries of human intervention.
I believe that this call of the wild in the outside world, is the echo of an inner call to the wild. The call of our minds, asking us to explore the possibility to re-wild ourselves from within. In other words, to free ourselves from our mental “domestication” – as Don Miguel Ruiz calls it in The 4 Agreements.
That inner call is becoming louder and louder. Asking us to consciously dismantle ways of thinking that do not serve life. Asking us to bring our minds closer to a state of wildness.
The wildness I am talking about here has nothing to do with misguided attempts to seek freedom through frenetic excesses. Rather, it is a wildness that endures; a wildness that has within itself an inherent harmony and wholeness.
And that wildness, that deep wholeness and fierce freedom of spirit is what I saw in the eagle’s eyes.
May you see it too and draw from it boundless inspiration.
*Stay tuned for the links to the films of the expedition, which explore our relationship with wild species… I’ll be sharing them on this blog as soon as they are out.
Nicole Schwab is author of The Heart of the Labyrinth, a young woman’s poetic journey deep into the Andes, and deep into her mind, in search of our lost connection with Mother Earth and the sacred feminine.