4:27PM, driving along the Old River Road in Cedar Rapids, IA. We’re on the lookout for bald eagles and they like to hunt around the roller dam. Considering how cold our weather has been, there’s still a surprising expanse of open water. Good for fishing, if you happen to be an eagle. At first, all we can see is an occasional glimpse of a white head or dark body amid the bare trees but then, patience rewards us as two birds take flight. Kevin drives down closer to the water–a little too close for me!–and we sit, spellbound, watching our national bird soaring effortlessly through the still, late-afternoon air. Yes, it’s below zero, but only just; that doesn’t matter. We are, after all, warmly dressed, sitting in a heated car. One of the eagles lands in a tree fairly close to us and we observe it for a few minutes, settling on a branch, fluffing its feathers, twitching its tail. It’s always a thrill to see these magnificent birds at close range, in their natural habitat–free and unfettered, as they’re meant to be. The sun begins its descent, gilding the tree tops. The light is gorgeous, liquid gold….and I’m mildly irritated that I’ve left my camera at home. Sometimes, though, it’s not about taking the perfect photo, observing life from behind a lens. It’s about being in the moment, letting it wash over you and speak to your heart. The burning disk of the sun slides gently down the fragile blue sky, painting the clouds in watercolor shades of rose and apricot. Twenty minutes later, nature’s extravagant farewell to the day is over; the sky has changed to a uniform soft gray. An hour later, writing this, it has become full dark. The images linger in my memory, enchanting me, and I am reminded that each day contains many small miracles, if we have eyes to see. They aren’t necessarily big, “ohmigod” moments; they might be as commonplace as a sunset, a lone horse in a field, a cardinal or bluejay at the bird feeder, vivid splashes of color in the austere Winter landscape. Gifts of beauty, a balm to the spirit….and I am grateful.