Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Beauty That Never Dies

                                                  They who bind to themselves a joy
                                                  Do the winged life destroy
                                                  They who kiss the joy as it flies
                                                   Live in eternity’s sunrise
                                                          (adapted from William Blake)


One in eight bird species faces extinction, warns Birdlife International in a new report and website released on September 22, 2008.  (State of the World’s Birds, This report found biodiversity "continues to get worse, and that, if anything, this deterioration is accelerating, not slowing."  Threatened with extinction include 82 percent of albatross species, 60 percent of cranes, 27 percent of parrots, 23 percent of pheasants, and 20 percent of pigeons listed.  In the 20 years since 1988 and 2008, 225 additional bird species have been listed in a higher category of threat.


It does indeed seem like we are binding to ourselves a joy, and thus destroying the bird life we treasure.  In turn we cage ourselves into a world with diminishing beauty.  Ecotherapist Howard Clinebell writes, “There is a general sadness and desperation that undercuts our lives as we witness the steady decline of biodiversity at our own hands, and if we wish happiness we must address the ages old injury our culture and beings have suffered.” 

Carolinaparakeets I look into the future and feel the weight bearing down on me of the increasing barren landscapes once so luxurious around my subtropical home.  It seems I have a choice though.  Do I bend into the ground and bury what beauty and joy is in me or do I dance under any and every winged wonder that flies over, no matter its alarming conservation status?  Weeping comes naturally enough, but it is not enough.  For I know that no matter what the coming years bring, beauty once was, and even its memory keeps beauty before and around me, for it is in me.  In you.  In our species, though we are throwing away the greatest gifts in the world.  The gift cannot be extinguished, though the way is dark.  Somewhere in the deep reaches of our minds still flies the Carolina Parakeet screeching in the trees that exist here only by our species’ permission.  When shall we give ourselves the permission to fly free, to live with abundance.  What shall we do to liberate ourselves as we liberate the birds from extinction? 

For me the answer lies partly in this poem by Wendell Berry in his most recent book on poems, Given

Ytwa7904415 The yellow-throated warbler, the highest remotest voice of this place, sings in the tops of the tallest sycamores, but one day he came twice to the railing of my porch where I sat at work above the river.  He was too close to see with binoculars.  Only the naked eye could take him in, a bird more beautiful that every picture of himself, more beautiful than himself killed and preserved by the most skilled taxidermist, more beautiful than any human mind, so small and inexact, could hope ever to remember.  My mind became beautiful by the sight of him. He had the beauty only of himself alive in the only moment of his life.  He had upon him like a light the whole beauty of the living world that never dies.

I pray that we may not be left alone with only memories.

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