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The Symbol

I’ve seen them in Alaska, Yellowstone, Maine. Always alone— their singularity capturing so much of the spirit they epitomize. Usually they’re roosting on the uppermost branch of the tallest tree in the area. Occasionally I’ve spotted one swooping into a landing or launching powerfully, improbably into the air. The sight, for me, is always thrilling—much the same way that spotting a breaching whale is thrilling. But whereas whales belong to the sea, which belongs to no one, the Bald Eagle, at least in my mind (and probably many other minds), represents America. Even when I saw one in northern Canada—where I know they are plentiful—I thought to myself, “What’s he doing up here, far from home?”

When I was a child I was told the Bald Eagle was on the verge of extinction; we had all but destroyed our national symbol. Yet they came back, and a decade ago were removed from the endangered and threatened list.

Perhaps because I have only ever seen a Bald Eagle in wild and majestic places, my conception of them is linked with all that is so good about America. These sightings invariably fill me with a rush of awe, a swelling of gratitude, a sprig of hope.

When, very recently, my son saw his first Bald Eagle on the Missouri River in Montana during a father-son canoe trip, his one word reaction captured everything I have always felt, not only about the Bald Eagle, but about the wilder parts of our country.

“Whoa,” he said softly.

“I know,” I whispered back.

It felt good to pass something down.

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Tuesday, March 28 at 7pm Barnes & Noble Union Square In conversation with Gayle Forman 33 E. 17th St., New York, NY 10003 Wednesday, March 29 at 7pm Barnes & Noble Vernon Hills Shopping Center 680 Post Rd., Eastchester, NY 10583 Thursday, March 30 at 7pm Books & Greetings 271 Livingston St., Northvale, NJ 07647 Saturday, April 1 Texas Teen Book Con | Houston, TX Sunday, April 2 Alamo Drafthouse | Austin, TX Monday, April 3 at 7pm Books, Inc Opera Plaza Not Your Mother’s Book Club 601 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco, CA 94107 Tuesday, April 4 at 7pm Book Passage 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera, CA 94925 Wednesday, April 5 at 8pm Live Talks LA In conversation with Pico Iyer Ann and Jerry Moss Theatre, New Roads School 3131 Olympic Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90404 Thursday, April 6 at 7pm Elliott Bay Books 1521 10th Ave., Seattle, WA 98122 Friday, April 7 at 7pm Powell’s Books 3415 SW Cedar Hills Blvd., Beaverton, OR 97005 Sunday, April 9 at 5pm Politics & Prose 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008 Monday, April 10 at 7pm Boswell Books 2559 N. Downer Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53211 Tuesday, April 11 at 7pm The Book Stall at Chestnut Court In conversation with Betsy Bird 811 Elm St., Winnetka, IL 60093 Wednesday, April 12 at 7pm Talk of the Stacks Series Hennepin County Library Minneapolis Central Library 300 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, MN 55401 Thursday, April 13 at 6:30pm Parnassus Books Hillsboro Plaza Shopping Center 3900 Hillsboro Pike #14, Nashville, TN 37215 Tuesday, April 18 at 6:30pm Rainy Day Books At Woodneath Library 8900 N. Flintock Rd., Kansas City, MO 64157 Wednesday, April 19 at 7pm St. Louis County Library With The Novel Neighbor 1640 S. Lindbergh Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63131 Thursday, April 20 at 7pm Georgia Center for the Book With Little Shop of Stories Dekalb County Public Library 215 Sycamore St., Decatur, GA 30030 Friday, April 21 at 7pm Books & Books 265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables, FL 33134 Tuesday, April 25 at 7pm Barnes & Noble Market Fair, 3535 US-1 #400, Princeton, NJ 08540 Wednesday, April 26 at 7pm Brookline Booksmith 279 Harvard St., Brookline, MA 02446 Monday, May 1 at 7pm Darien Library In conversation with Dani Shapiro 1441 Post Rd., Darien, CT 06820