A Cara Cara Comes to the Valle del Maiz
I edge the car slowly down the narrow, cobbled street. My Indian corn necklace hanging on the rearview mirror sways impertinently with each unexpected bounce. When I spy a car moving up the hill toward me, I quickly search for a space in the road that expands, then pull over to wait. In the Valle del Maiz this road courtesy ends with a quick rising of the hand, a signal that we do not own but share the path which leads to our destinations.
Last November I made my destination Mexico, and moved to San Miguel de Allende, where I had lived in the early Nineties. I wanted time to find a publisher for my book, Daughter of Corn: Coming of Age in the Americas, while continuing to write a second one. Discovering a third floor efficiency apartment with glass doors opening onto a spectacular show of azure sky, swooping birds, and the magical rooftops of San Miguel in the Valle del Maiz, or Valley of Corn, was an uncanny act of serendipity.
Shortly after I moved to the “Red Apartment”, I experienced a phenomenon that still makes me tremble with wonder. A cara cara or Mexican eagle held court on the terraza outside my sliding glass door. The first time this gorgeous black and white speckled bird with a blue beak landed on my patio table, I was speechless. When the cara cara chose to sit and calmly preen his extensive wings on the table, I thought surely this was a sign. By the third day I surmised that there was magic in the air. Surely this celestial bird had chosen to visit me with some esoteric purpose! My friends who knew about the daily visits emailed me websites that detailed the spiritual significance of eagles. Entranced, I carefully considered the numerous interpretations of an eagle totem: sharp-eyed, able to discern from great heights, clarity in decision-making. It wasn’t long before the song “Fly Like an Eagle,” began to resound like a mantra inside my tremulous mind.
On the third day I noticed the ease in which the cara cara hopped around on the terraza. When the noble bird approached my glass door, however, a nervous energy took hold. Those black, intelligent eyes were peering at me with hidden intent.
The eagle soon lowered his regal head and lightly pecked at the glass door with his colorful beak. I sat on my couch frozen, watching what I had assumed to be a wild bird, behave like a domesticated pet anxious to be with his master. Did this have anything to do with my eagle totem?
The next day I began to hear rumors about a cara cara attacking dogs and breaking windows. Could there be another meaning to my three-day visit from the eagle? For instance, what exactly was I looking for, not the bird? Disturbing questions rumbled within my mind’s internal chattering, and finally I called El Charcol, the local ecological park uphill, to discuss why this bird was being so friendly. Two days later I received an email: “Don’t feed this bird. You will be okay.”
I will be okay? But what did this mean? Hadn’t my friend, Dana, who’d once had a mystical encounter with a pack of wild wolves, told me that the number three possessed numerological significance-- say something akin to the Holy Trinity?
As my questioning reached levels of electric possibilities, the anxiety level of my landlord, who owned two beloved dogs, began to “soar like an eagle.”
“Corinne, please don’t encourage that bird!” he told me in a tight voice. “And for God’s sake, keep that door locked. Did I tell you about the eagle who tried to attack Bonita when I was walking her in El Charco?”
Well, no he hadn’t. But I did hear about the lady whose dog was killed when a cara cara smashed the glass door to get into her house. Suddenly I began to reconsider my mystical anointment. Perhaps a friendly cara cara wasn’t such a special thing. Indeed, maybe the eagle wasn’t so much interested in being a messenger as receiving a free handout. After all, I ‘d spent many an afternoon in the patio of the Bellas Artes observing pigeons landing on tables and cooing as they cocked their heads in anticipation of a fallen crumb.
Curiously, the cara cara never returned after the third day. I think he sensed the growing tension between us and decided that the patio was not such a welcome abode after all. Meanwhile I did a lot of thinking about myself, and human nature in general. For don’t we all want to be thought of as someone special, someone who deserves a heavenly visitation? In a way, I was queen for a day—or rather, queen for three days, and I reveled in my mystical anomaly regally. In the end, however, there were things to consider, such as broken glass doors and dogs being attacked. Perhaps there are different sides to every mystical condition, and we are free to determine the lens in which we view the experience.
I do have a photo of the cara cara, taken with my Macbook laptop. And with all its drama and excitement, the eagle was a messenger of a sort, for aren’t I now telling his story to you, my fine reader?
Corinne J. Stanley