Growing up, my mom, my brother and I took many a road trip to visit family in the mystical mountains of British Columbia. My mom was raised in a tiny, Bavarian-themed ski town about ten or eleven hours east of Vancouver, and it served as our holiday destination during nearly every school break. It’s where I first learned to snowboard, first learned how to play drinking games at the local pub, and where I watched my cousins be born, become kids, and grow into little adults. It’s a special place for me, with special people, but just as the destination holds a treasured place in my heart, so does the journey. I still relish in the memories I created on those drives, stopping at fresh fruit stands, playing word games, trying to memorize the towns along the way, and even sometimes stopping half way to stay in a humid hotel room with a rattling air conditioner. There was rarely a trip when we didn’t spot a soaring bald eagle overheard, or a regal hawk watching over us. We saw deer and other wildlife as well, but the birds were especially precious to me. Somewhere in her life, my mom developed a special appreciation and affection for Native American culture; in Canada, the First Nations. I’m not sure exactly why, perhaps it was the time she spent teaching school children on a Native Reserve, maybe some past life connection, or simply her love of humanity and nature that brought her close to their ancient spiritual beliefs. Regardless, it was a reverence she instilled in us, and an experience of awe we share. By the time I was born, my mother’s brother and father had both passed away, my only relationship with them consisting of familiar stories and photographs. But whenever we saw an eagle soaring proudly over our puttering sedan, my mom would sigh, teary eyed. She would share her thoughts through an emotional smile, “There’s my dad, looking after us.” I believed her every time. To this day, I think of her every time I see an eagle, and I feel safe, connected. I think of her long lost relatives watching over me, protecting me. When I was seven, my grandmother passed away. Since then, every hawk I see evokes the same feeling of interconnectedness. I don’t know why my mom shared this with us; if she hoped to inspire awe or simply share her own experience. I don’t even know if it comes from any Native tradition. But after all these years, it is a gift for which I am eternally grateful. It’s a reminder that we’re connected to everything, that freedom lives within us, as does the history of every being that came before. Life is full of these experiences, if we choose to see them. Sometimes it just helps to have a little reminder. Thanks mom.