Back To Index Birds of a Feather
by Tom Thomson
Hearts and Minds
The gray of a dove's wing, the sky was. And that only in the east, where the diffused light of the unrisen sun was barely discernible. Overhead the color was old pewter and westward, beyond the hills of the Clear Creek Valley, the sky was dark as a blacksnake, the morning star glowing over the treetops like a bright enigmatic eye.
I take these occasional early morning trips to rouse my sensibilities from the apathy of everyday living; the commonplace happenings of the big city, the lurid headlines of the daily newspaper proclaiming government corruption, international mayhem, and the latest heinous crimes.
In such a way, if I do not arrive at any ultimate and great truth, I at least clear my head, search deep within my own soul-then in turn-examine the world about me.
I study the trees, birds, flowers and, beyond them, the heavens. In such a way, I ascertain that I am located somewhere in the middle of things, halfway between inner and outer space. I listen to the crowing of a rooster, the baying of a faraway hound, the awakening trill of a field sparrow.
Sometimes I take a loved one with me and thus, holding hands, we construct a triangle: her heart, my heart, and the eye of the planetary snake.
We become partners in the early morning darkness, joined in a conspiracy of awareness. There are no witnesses to our scheming other than a curious bird or two and sometimes a family of deer far out in the meadow next to the creek.
There are other times when I go by myself-yet I'm never really alone. Many of the people who influenced my life, personal friends I have known-some of them passed on now-or the authors who made a great impression on my life, they accompany me in my mind. It's amusing in a way, isn't it!
To the casual eye it would appear that I was walking down the road alone, but the reality of it is there's a merry little troupe of us, sometimes new people, this person or that joining us, or perhaps someone else taking their leave after they have had their say.
I recall one morning when I am walking along in the company of Carolus Linnaeus, Henry David Thoreau, Annie Dillard, Rachel Carson, Alexander Wilson, Ed Thomas, and Esther Reichelderfer. With the great Linnaeus in our company, I ask you: what else would we talk about other than systematics?
We all get a laugh from the stories about how the clergy and some of the more pious personages of his day got their noses out of joint because of the sexual basis for the plant classifications. By the grimace on his face, I can tell that the old Scotsman, Alexander Wilson, isn't too amused at our conversation. I kiddingly remind him that sex is what makes the world go 'round and he gives a consenting grunt.
So it is that we walk the old road as it threads its way through the hills. The nearby creek serenades us with its mysterious soliloquies, the rippling water reflecting the growing light in the sky as surely as it chronicles the history of the valley. A towhee calls out its name, tentative at first, then trills its drink-your-teeeaa song.
For a brief second, we glimpse an Indigo Bunting. Rachel Carson exclaims at the incredible blueness of the bird before it flies into a roadside tangle. I wish that I had known this dear lady in the real world, especially during the last one or two years of her life. That was when Silent Spring was gaining critical acclaim from environmentalists all over the world. Yet the big chemical companies and their minions attacked her like a swarm of angry hornets.
All the while she was dying from cancer. I wish that I could have held her hand. Held her hand and looked in her eyes as I told her what a great and wonderful contribution she had made to all of us. Yes, even to those who belittled and debased her.
"That's the way of the world," I would have said softly. "It has always been that way and probably always will be."
I can imagine her nodding her head, smiling weakly and thanking me for my kind words. "Why is it so difficult for people to do the right thing-and to be kind?" she might have asked. And to that question I would have no answer.
In the meantime, the sun climbs the sky, entices a twisting streamer of mist to rise from the hills.
Shafts of sunlight shatter dark tree-shadows along the sandstone road, explode them into fireworks of dancing gold baubles.
One miracle follows another as a new day is born and, most important of all, I discover that-even across the centuries- there are some hearts and minds that are indivisible.
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