The birth and death of a little eagle, weighing only four ounces, brought out the very best in humanity.
She was born on April 15, 2019, in Fawnskin, CA, to a young couple. The new parents did everything right. They kept her tucked in and warm. They made sure she was well fed. They named her Cookie. One very cold night, with temperatures in the 20s and despite their best efforts, she developed hypothermia. The ever-hopeful parents watched as she struggled with life. Some days she tried to rally, lifting her head when her parents tried to feed her. But it was not to be. Forty-two days after she was born, she turned her head for the last time and died.
Cookie was one of two baby eagles born to mother Jackie and father Shadow 120 feet up a towering tree overlooking Big Bear Lake. This nest is one of dozens monitored by the Institute of Wildlife Studies, a non-profit organization that gathers information on wildlife to protect the species. At the Big Bear nest a live HD camera is perfectly placed giving viewers an unobstructed access to the minute-by-minute real-life happenings in the lives of the big birds.
Thousands of people, including the school children who name the eagles, monitor the many nests 24/7. There’s an option to login to a camera and post comments about what’s happening in the nest. Details on who’s given birth, how many chicks hatched, how they’re progressing, did they fledge, etc. Questions are answered by naturalist professors or moderators, or even “citizen scientists” who have become proficient in their knowledge.
When Cookie was born in April interest was high. She followed by one day a brother named Simba, who robustly hatched. Interest was high as she pecked her way out of the shell seemingly to the brink of exhaustion. Her progress in the nest was always a day behind. Compared to Simba, she appeared slower. The comments from the watchers became less objective and more personal. Many expressed worry over her slower advancement and how much food she was eating.
Weather conditions at 7,000 feet were not ideal for the young chicks either. A spring snowstorm hit the nest. Though the mother kept both chicks covered to regulate their body temperatures, the severe cold was too much. The watchers kept vigil throughout the night, only to realize that Cookie was not herself after the storm. She appeared listless, and ate less and less. As Cookie’s condition deteriorated, more and more watchers came online. In days, hundreds of thousands were expressing heartfelt feelings about her condition from all around the world.
The day Cookie died was a tragedy. Those who watched her peck her way out of the shell felt as though they’d lost a family member. Many posts were somber. Others were broken-hearted about the loss, expressing love, deep grief, and also great personal pain. It was compelling to watch how human emotions were being mirrored onto the eagles. Every grief-stricken comment expressed by strangers was consoled by other strangers. You could feel a palpable wave of compassion spreading person to person as different time zones came online, realized what had happened to Cookie, and began to comment. Grief was spiraling but compassion was soothing it.
One man, critical of everything he read, accused the watchers of anthropomorphic behavior. He was outraged by the expressions of grief and the condolences everyone was expressing. He called it “a disgusting failing and brought out the worst of humanity.” I wrote back that I disagreed. In fact, the birth and death of this little eagle, weighing only four ounces, brought out the very best in humanity. Humans across the planet were collectively demonstrating and embracing the highest ideals of love, caring, and compassion for each other and for another species.
Hundreds of thousands of people chimed in. People wrote from South Korea, Australia, France, and the UK—all expressing sadness for the loss. In a matter of days California’s news media was reporting on “The Death of Cookie.” The story was picked up by AP, Reuters, and a few days later, made headline news in the New York Times. All commented about the death of the eagle being watched by “hundreds of thousands around the world.” None reported on how four ounces of feathers resulted in a human tidal wave of compassion. It’s still being felt when anyone on the Big Bear nest mentions Cookie.
Author’s note: Cookie was actually a male but always presented as a female. That’s why the female pronoun was used in this article.
Jo Mooy has studied with many spiritual traditions over the past 40 years. The wide diversity of this training allows her to develop spiritual seminars and retreats that explore inspirational concepts, give purpose and guidance to students, and present esoteric teachings in an understandable manner. Along with Patricia Cockerill, she has guided the Women’s Meditation Circle since January 2006 where it has been honored for five years in a row as the “Favorite Meditation” group in Sarasota, FL, by Natural Awakenings Magazine. Teaching and using Sound as a retreat healing practice, Jo was certified as a Sound Healer through Jonathan Goldman’s Sound Healing Association. She writes and publishes a monthly internationally distributed e-newsletter called Spiritual Connections and is a staff writer for Spirit of Maat magazine in Sedona. For more information go to http://www.starsoundings.com or email email@example.com.