Last week was a string of days within this:
Malheur NW Refuge and Steens Mnt.
We enter solitude, in which also we lose loneliness…
True solitude is found in the wild places, where one is without human obligation.
One’s inner voices become audible. One feels the attraction of one’s most intimate sources.
In consequence, one responds more clearly to other lives. The more coherent one becomes within oneself as a creature, the more fully one enters into the communion of all creatures.
– Wendell Berry
The ultimate was watching a pair of swans with four cygnets. Watching for hours the intimacy of their body language with each other, their communication and connections so basic and honest simplicity, putting all of ours at shame and bumbling inadequacy. The poetics of space and place through the eyes of six swans was an experience I won’t forget. And it makes all our human drama seem so ignorant and trivial.
I belong where the wild things are.
Trumpeter swans and cygnets
White-faced ibis and cinnamon teal on marshes on the Refuge.
Sometimes a creature grabs you from the inside and holds you. It might be a particular flower whose beauty is translated to your heart. It might be a shimmering butterfly that dances in your mind’s eye. Or it might be the song of a meadowlark that fills your ears with sweetness.
There is one that captured me in my childhood and still pulls me like a siren and muse. Its voice can be ethereal, or wild and almost supernatural. It tugs at primitive strings in my soul and tethers me between a vast space of a wildness we can’t even comprehend, and the short time of our humanity that seems so pitiful compared to the beauty and innocence of this creature.
My childhood and most of my adulthood were spent in the northern regions of this country: Maine, New York, and Oregon. I know the voice of the loon. I know this bird. It is ingrained in my being like the beating of my heart. It stirs deep inside like a wolf howl.
The loon may lack the iridescent and bright colors of many other birds, but its simplicity makes it regal, humble and honest. Both parents share the care of their young and carry them on their backs in the water. And they stay with their chosen mates throughout nesting and migration. Yet, their numbers decline rapidly due to habitat loss and a sensitivity to toxic minerals, especially mercury and lead, in the mainstay of their lives: water.
If you have heard the call of a loon during an early foggy morning on a lake, you don’t forget it. Ever. It haunts you like a siren. The voice of the loon has no threat. Instead, it elicits a profound feeling of innate and inexplicable comfort and alliance. It literally gives me goosebumps and simultaneously, a surge of happiness. It stirs inexplicable primitive feelings for which no words can explain. It is the call of a species at the brink of possible extinction, calling for another chance.
Their voice brings me to tears and stirs my soul. All I can do is close my eyes and become a part of the sound, the bird and its environment.