Common Tern (by Andreas Trepte)
Listen, maybe such devotion, in which one holds the world in the clasp of attention, isn’t the perfect prayer, but it must be close, for the sorrow, whose name is doubt, is thus subdued, and not through the weaponry of reason, but of pure submission. Tell me, what else could beauty be for? – Mary Oliver in poem, Terns (see below for entire poem)
The beauty of birds, what is it for? It is to add names to our life list? Is it to heal the ache in our hearts? Is it to find that we belong here on this earth, have a place in the family of things?
When I see a bird, hear her or his call, or hold it’s still form in my hands, I hear the invitation to give myself over to a better thing, and not a bitter thing. True, it is hard to be minister, conservationist, and veterinarian whose daily activities ask me to be present to what might seem hopeless in the tragic pain, loss, and death of all beings. Incessant questions hover around me: What is mine to do? How can I help? When will the suffering end?
Then I see a bird, a tern perhaps hovering over ocean swell. My heart fills, the world shifts, it turns. In this great turning I only know beauty and that is what I am for.
What are you for?
Don't think just now of the trudging forward of thought,
but of the wing-drive of unquestioning affirmation.
It's summer, you never saw such a blue sky,
and here they are, those white birds with quick wings,
sweeping over the waves,
chattering and plunging,
their thin beaks snapping, their hard eyes
happy as little nails.
The years to come -- this is a promise --
will grant you ample time
to try the difficult steps in the empire of thought
where you seek for the shining proofs you think you must have.
But nothing you ever understand will be sweeter, or more binding,
than this deep affinity between your eyes and the world.
The flock thickens
over the roiling, salt brightness. Listen,
maybe such devotion, in which one holds the world
in the clasp of attention, isn't the perfect prayer,
but it must be close, for the sorrow, whose name is doubt,
is thus subdued, and not through the weaponry of reason,
but of pure submission. Tell me, what else
could beauty be for? And now the tide
is at its very crown,
the white birds sprinkle down,
gathering up the loose silver, rising
as if weightless. It isn't instruction, or a parable.
It isn't for any vanity or ambition
except for the one allowed, to stay alive.
It's only a nimble frolic
over the waves. And you find, for hours,
you cannot even remember the questions
that weigh so in your mind.
~ Mary Oliver ~
(New and Selected Poems, Volume Two)