Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Pilgrim at Canadian Creek
Yesterday I spent some time exploring the banks of the Canadian River in appropriately named Canadian County when I flushed a pair of barn owls out of an old building. In all my travels by foot throughout this land I had never once encountered an owl. It has eluded me with great frustration since I was a child. Seconds later I spied a pair of great horned owls in a big Cottonwood tree - our eyes locked immediately and we held each other in a penetrating gaze that seemed to go on forever. Four owls in four minutes after 40 years of waiting and I knew this moment was mine.
I have returned back to my place of my birth with the intent to live a more engaged life with this land and to better understand the hold it has on me. In my back roads travels yesterday I set out purposefully to discover a new way of understanding this place - I came bearing the promise to see this very land that nurtured my childhood soul the way that writer Annie Dillard taught me in her book "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek."
Dillard writes, "So I blurred my eyes and gazed towards the brim of my hat and saw a new world. I saw the pale white circles roll up, roll up, like the world's turning, mute and perfect, and I saw the linear flashes, gleaming silver, like stars being born at random down a rolling scroll of time. Something broke and something opened. I filled up like a new wineskin. I breathed an air like light: I saw a light like water. I was the lip of a fountain the creek forever filled; I was ether, the leaf in the zephyr; I was flesh, flake, feather, bone. The secret of seeing is, then, the pearl of great price. If I thought he could teach me to find it and keep it forever I would stagger barefoot across a hundred deserts after any lunatic at all. The secret of seeing is to sail on solar wind. Hone and spread your spirit till you yourself are a sail, whetted, translucent, broadside to the merest puff."
And then I saw the owls -- and in that flash of tender moment -- a whole new world opened up -- just like Annie promised. I was, in that instant, all of it at once -- a tiny trembling leaf on the cottonwood tree, the pulsating heart in that feathered chest and the single drop of rain falling from the sycamore branch. When we finally learn how to navigate the unseen dimensions of nature -- we are extended an invitation to experience an intimacy and ecstasy with the Great Spirit that transcends all books, all religions and all our carefully studied ways of explaining the world.
If ever you can't find me -- it's likely that I am gone -- off staggering barefoot across a hundred deserts.