Friday, April 18, 2008

the fluttering of the homeless bird

Yesterday, while I was walking with my son down the back lane between College and Prospect Streets on our way to McVicar Creek (i.e. what is now called McVicar Creek), a butterfly flitted across our path! Then, crossing the road to get to the land that meets up with the footpath that used to be a tobaggon hill in the early 1900s, another butterfly fluttered across. They were the first butterflies I've seen this year. Totally nondescript; both were brown, but one had splats of orange on its wings, but when only the week before we had a snowfall and below zero weather, I wonder, where did those butterflies come from? Did they migrate in? Surely, they could not have survived the snow and cold of last week.

The creek is rushing, full of melt waters. The sound of the rushing fills your ears, which is even louder as there are no leaves on the surrounding trees to buffer the sound. My son was eager to see if he could catch a fish. "Do you think I'll find any worms in the garden?" he'd asked me earlier while I was out sweeping sand from the sidewalk. "I don't think so! The snow's just melted!"

Out by the creek, I bagged something...but it wasn't a fish, it was garbage, 3 bags full. I was disgusted with all the garbage littering the shoreline, from plastic shopping bags snagged in tree branches, to broken whiskey bottles, plastic mouthwash bottles, and even a sodden blue wool sweater...upon which, when I dragged it out of its nest at the root of a tree, I found a worm. "Here's your worm!" I shouted to my son.

On the way back we saw a small flock of cedar waxwings enjoying shriveled up crabapples. Earlier in the week I had spied some slate-colored juncos hopping about the pine needles and a pair of mergansers swimming among the gulls by the lake front, and tomorrow I'm off swan hunting....metaphorically speaking that is. In the old May 7, 1942 newspaper that I found laid over the pine boards of the back room of our house, I found this notice:
City Topics

Swans Visit Chippewa
A number of years ago wild swan began to call at
Chippewa Park, Fort William, on their way north.
Yesterday five swans arrived. The usual period of stay
is from two to three weeks. They were seen in the bay
adjacent to the tourist camp.
As I have not seen swans in the region, I sent a query to my resident
bird expert and he replied:

"Yes, we do have swans visiting our area every spring
and fall. They can usually be seen early in the spring
before all the ice is gone at places like the Mission
Chippewa or the mouth of the Kam and other
places along the waterfront with geese and ducks.
Usually only one or two individuals are present at
any given time, but sometimes there may be more.
They're Tundra
Swans, I once saw 8 flying over our
house in Lappe in formation."

Sharing with you a poem of swans, our sisters and brothers,

by Rabindranath Tagore

The meandering current of the Jhelum,
Like a curved sword, glistening in the twilight,
Merges into darkness.
At the ebb of day comes the tide of night
Carrying myriads of star-flowers
Floating on its dark waters.
At the foot of the dark mountains
Stand in rows the deodar trees,
As if creation would whisper in dreams,
Unable to utter its message clearly.
Only the gathering of unuttered sounds
Rumbles in the dark.

Suddenly I hear,
In the vast emptiness of the evening sky
The lighting flash of sounds
Shattering from the far to the far beyond.

O flying swans (1)
Your wings drunk with the wine of tempest
And scattering peals of joyous laughter,
Raise waves of wonder in the still sky.

This is music of the wings,
This singing of celestial nymphs,
Fled past
Disturbing the meditation of Silence.

The mountains in their dark slumber shuddered,
The forest of deodars shivered,
As if the music of the winds
Brought for an instant the rhythm of movement
Into the heart of joyous immobility.

The mountains yearned
To become the aimless cloud of summer,
The trees to take wing
And follow the trails of sound,
And search the ends of space.

O winged wanderer,
Breaking the dreams of twilight
Waves of anguish arise,
Yearning for the Beyond.

In the heart of the universe echoed the burning refrain:
‘Not here, not here, somewhere far beyond.’

O flying swans,
Tonight you have opened for me the door of Silence.

Behind her veil, in earth, sky, water,
I hear the restless beating of wings.
The grass is fluttering its wings in the sky of earth;
In the brooding darkness of the earth,
Who knows what myriads of budding seeds
Are spreading their wings?

I behold this mountain, this forest,
Spreading their wings,
Winging from island to island,
Soaring from unknown to unknown.

To the beating of the wings of stars
Throbs the cry of light in darkness.

I hear the countless voices of the human heart
Flying unseen,
From the dim past to the dim unblossomed future.
Hear, within my own breast,
The fluttering of the homeless bird, which,
In company with countless others,
Flies day and night,
Through light and darkness,
From shore to shore unknown.

The void of the universe is resounding with the

Music of wings:
‘Not here, not here, somewhere far beyond.’

(1) In Bengali the word is Hansa-balākā, to pious Hindus a symbol of the human soul winging its way to its heavenly resting-place.


No comments: