Ever since Venus came bursting forth from the sea and the first rose sprung from the ground in her honor, we’ve been struggling to explain away the thorns. The Bible took a crack at it by claiming that the rose was thornless in the Garden of Eden, which allegedly evidences the purity and perfection of both the rose and the Garden. The rose as the perfection of beauty, and the thorn as impurity and punishment. Medieval times presented the thorn as some kind of external guardian, protecting the rose’s beauty, fragility, and even chastity. Ha. A chaste flower. That seems impossibly ridiculous until you consider just how much mythology intertwines the rose with our traditional, idealized, human conception of femininity. We have struggled for a long time to detach the rose from, and really to deny it, its thorns.

In 1985 there was only a single pair of Bald Eagles left in New Jersey when Kathy Clark first started working on their recovery. In 1993 she would meet a kindred spirit on the path: Dr. Erica Miller. Dr. Miller worked with the TriState Bird Rescue for 20 plus years and has done oil spill recovery work all over the world. Together these two superb experts have been toiling away in the shadows of New Jersey’s marshes and forests for decades, bringing back the Eagles from the brink of extinction, one nest at a time. While they certainly have not done this alone, to call their work a “success” is a rude understatement. New Jersey is now at over 170 pairs and still growing.

My Rose is the most beautiful thing I know in this world. Everyday I admire her beauty, her grace, and her delicate nature. But I would never want to see her denied the things I love even more about her: her sharpness, her fierceness, her courage, her tenacity. A true Rose is both a thing of great beauty in the world, and a fierce protector of all that is beautiful in this world. I’ll man’splain it this way: A flowery part of the rose as some symbol of feminity is only half the story. A woman should be proud to be thorny as all hell.

An Eagle Banding with Kathy Clark & Erica Miller is basically a sacred event and a spiritual experience. You can view the photos you are about to see on two levels. You can look lightly and see people climbing trees, retrieving Eaglets, drawing blood, taking measurements, and banding. Or you can look more deeply. You can realize you are witnessing the lives and work of two incredibly fierce, courageous, and beautiful women who are saving and protecting the beautiful and fragile things of this world, for us, for themselves, and just because it is just the right thing to do.

I hope you can see in these photos what those lucky enough to be out with Kathy & Dr. Erica have experienced. This is what success looks like. This is what courage looks like. This is what it looks like to make the world a better place. This is what it looks like to solve huge problems which are global in scale. This is what inspiration looks like. This is what it looks like to live a meaningful life. This is what hard work looks like. This what love looks like. This is what it looks like to be a human truly centered on this planet. These things are hard to describe and more difficult to show, but this is what you experience if you are lucky enough to join Kathy & Dr. Erica in the tick infested forests of New Jersey.

I’ve been toiling away for years to prove myself worthy in hopes of getting this opportunity. But they don’t need some blogger hanging around, taking photos and disturbing their difficult and delicate work. No. My invite finally came when they realized my T. Rose was ready to discover the true power of her thorns.

This is what it looks like when generous and powerful women share their spirit with the next generation.

Happy Earth Day.

Click here for Part 1.