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Language of Birds.

Monday, October 1, 2007
Fayetteville, Arkansas

Buck and I, dog and man, prance like saddled horses, biting the bit in anticipation of the day's journey. Between us and the first step are issues of life. A rider can't be found on this pale morning. We remain stalled at the stable.

Have you been stymied in your wish to take the first step toward some other place you want to go? Do you feel the lash of expediency on your back?

I could get away, go places, stay gone for a season, were it not for self-imposed limits, responsibility to others, the commitment to shared goals. I've a little red truck, a few extra dollars in the stash, and no one to fire me if I don't show up. But I do show up. I lace my boots and take care of business. It's nothing special, just being a man.

"I no longer need a room, four walls, or firelight, now that I am no longer young. We have lost our glory," Virginia wrote before she walked into the sea.

"I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now," Bob Dylan sang when he was young.

A Cold, Cruel World.

A few of my friends, if viewed as pairs, don't like one another as much as I like each of them, but that's to be expected in a cold, cruel world. It's always cold and cruel, indifferent and dangerous, this vast world we navigate and stumble through.

Then we glide, we soar, and all is well again. We see clearly until the next fog appears.

In the empty, pale morning I hear the songs of birds floating from the layer of sound closest to my open bedroom window. The bird song drifts from trees and rises from grasses that stand and sway between me and the rolling roar of engines and tires on the not-so-distant city streets.

Behind and beneath the birds but before the tires on the pavement are the barking, howling dogs. Their's is a language I understand. They prowl and pace in their yards.

In the empty, pale morning I reach out to grasp the hand of my true love, sleeping lightly beside me. I squeeze, firmly and with assurance. The familiar pillows are molded like masks 'round my reclining form.

Secrets of the Deep Wilds.

I ponder two of THE OTHERS, who delivered messages in different tones about the codified language of birds. Tai Chi master Gary Lee introduced me to the concept some years ago. He was willing to teach it, but I wasn't ready to learn. Time passed. Then two weeks ago during a casual conversation at the outdoors store, the wilderness tracker Carl Keller III mentioned the language of birds and the name of a friend who knows how to teach it. Both messengers told me that bird language reveals many of the secrets of the deep wilds. I believe them.

Let's go back a ways. I was standing at a bus stop in downtown Seattle in the autumn of 2002, awaiting the arrival of the express to Puget Park. I watched the pigeons fly high through the gray and silver cityscape, fly up and up to the lofty ledges of skyscrapers, where they landed and looked out upon the world. I wanted to join them, become a bird, fly away. The stranger standing next to me didn't seem startled when I told him so. He said he understood. "I want to escape, too," he said. We didn't say much more. We just watched the birds until the carriage arrived.

The circle....

The course....

The orbit....

Continual repetition....

"All things that move between the quiet poles shall be at my command," Dr. Faustus said. Maybe so, but the cost of command is too much to bear.

Fibers and filaments dangle in the soft breeze. Brightly dyed thread, unwoven and unbraided, disentangles into wisps. I put things together, some fall apart. The ones that remain as a whole entity are the ones that bind me to the earth, the hearth, the path predestined for me.

Comforts of Cyber Community.

Wonderful missives arrive by E-mail after the posting of my letters here. In my solitude I am buoyed by the comforts of cyber community. Each letter I associate through memory with a living, breathing being, who exists elsewhere in space and time, but appears in my mind's eye as a friend, a mentor, a student, a pal.

Mike S. writes about Emerson, Yeats — "Excellent, and endless, questions!" — William Bradford, Nietzsche, and Alfred Kazin. Tony F. writes about night fly-fishing on Lake Taneycomo, about Erwin Schrödinger and quantum mechanics. Vicki S. writes about the writer's voice and virtual reality, about classes and students and grades and Spanish. Marty S. writes about West Point, Joseph W. about mountain top removal and Pentecostals in Appalachia, Jane H. about wild dove, mashed potatoes, gravy, and biscuits. Barry F. writes about a sea cruise and football (and his beautiful young daughter), Christopher Z. about leaving one place and embracing another, Jenni D. about singing in the choir and walking with crutches. Barry B. shares good news about his new job and how he might visit one day. Ashley W. reminisces about our old school, and Allie D. tells me she loves her new university and that it's "easy so far." Joanna G. reminds me of the value of encouragement and passion and love. Jan K. doesn't write anymore, and I've lost touch with Katie S. and Robert C.

Door, Tiger, Unbroken Circle.

About whom am I amiss to have mentioned? I know the door shall open and the tiger shall leap. She says I am simply a man in a room by an open window. If so, I close my eyes and pray that the circle shall ne'r be broken during its ceaseless cycle of expansion and contraction.

From the layer of sound closest to my window, I discern the language of love in the warbling of doves. I remember the springtime when young cardinals begged loudly for food. I think of tomorrow and the chance given to me, the chance to learn the language of alarm that the wild birds sing.

I've heard people say otherwise, but you cannot give too much love to another. You can give your love away forever and never run out.

Buck and I are going home now. We toss away the saddles and the leash. Our love shall n'er run out.


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