Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Sunday - the Lesson of the Birds

My neighbor introduced me to the writing of scientist and native Nebraskan, Loren Eiseley. He didn't write or think like any scientist I'd ever encountered. He was an archaeologist, anthropologist and naturalist who spent much of his time in reflection upon his scientific observations and was able to maintain a high sense of wonder about the universe.

Shortly after reading Willa Cather's, O Pioneers, I launched into one of Eiseley's book of essays. It was the dead of winter and I was battling brochitis, clutching my newfound friend the heating pad. This passage called "The Immense Journey" stunned me with it's eloquence.

In three paragraphs I was transported to a springtime meadow, the warmth of the heating pad translated in my mind to that of the afternoon sun. In my mind he has captured the essence of the story of Easter. I was so moved by the story that when spring finally arrrived, I drove around the countryside looking for an open glade that mirrored the image he'd created in my mind's eye.

The Leafy Glade


“I leaned against a stump at the edge of a small glade and fell asleep. When I awoke, dimly aware of some commotion and outcry in the clearing, the light was slanting down through the pines in such a way that the glade was lit like some vast cathedral. I could see the dust motes of wood pollen in the long shaft of light, and there on the extended branch sat an enormous raven with a red and squirming nestling in his beak. The sound that awoke me was the outraged cries of the nestling’s parents, who flew helplessly in circles about the clearing.

“The sleek black monster was indifferent to them. He gulped, whetted his beak on the dead branch a moment and sat still. Up to that point the little tragedy had followed the usual pattern. But suddenly, out of all that area of woodland, a soft sound of complaint began to rise. Into the glade fluttered small birds of half a dozen varieties drawn by the anguished outcries of the tiny parents. No one dared to attack the raven. But they cried there in some instinctive common misery. The bereaved and the unbereaved. The glade filled with their soft rustling and their cries. They fluttered as though to point their wings at the murderer. There was a dim intangible ethic he had violated, that they knew. He was a bird of death. And he, the murderer, the black bird at the heart of life, sat on there, glistening in the common light, formidable, unmoving, unperturbed, untouchable.”

“There the black bird sat, formidable, unmoving, unperturbed. The sighing of the little birds died. It was then I saw the judgment. It was the judgment of life against death. I will never see it again so forcefully presented. I will never hear it again in notes so poignantly prolonged. For in the midst of protest, they forgot the violence. There, in that clearing, the crystal note of a song sparrow lifted hesitantly in the hush. And finally, after painful fluttering, another took the song, and then another, the song passing from one bird to another, doubtfully at first, as though some evil things were being slowly forgotten. Till suddenly they took heart and sang from many throats, joyously together as birds are known to sing. They sang because life is sweet and sunlight beautiful. They sang under the brooding shadow of the raven. In simple truth they had forgotten the raven for they were the singers of life, and not of death.”

- Loren Eiseley (New York Vintage Book: 1957) 174-175

Have a blessed Easter!


Susan said...

Wow, Suzanne. This is something I need to read. Thanks for sharing and a Happy Easter to you and yours.

StitchinByTheLake said...

This was incredibly beautiful. Easter blessings, marlene

Rue said...

Good morning Suzanne :)

That was really beautiful.

Happy Easter my sweet friend!

Cindy L said...

Oh my gosh, I am awash in tears and chills. What a perfect message and metaphor for Easter. Thanks for reminding us and sharing Eisley. And your photo, with the excerpt, is perfect and beautiful.

Happy Easter, my friend!

Trish said...

Oh my...and they call me the bird lady! I must read this book! Wonderful passage. Thanks for sharing.

Karen said...

What a wonderful piece of writing !!

I think your photo compliments it beautifully..

Happy Easter !!

Uncomfortably Numb said...

Upon seeing the photo, I expected to be warmed by the reading to come. Rather, I was deeply and irrevocably moved. It's not the kind of reflection from which one can simply walk away, unchanged. For me, and a long time in the coming, it has been a gentle nudge in a familiar direction, toward a place of being I can only call "home."

Jenni said...

Beautiful! I think this is a writer I would appreciate. I'm jotting his name down in my to read list.

Merisi said...

Thank you for sharing this powerful story with us!

Happy Easter to you and your loved ones,

bv said...

were you able to read this without crying?