Encounter with a Canyon Wren

Mt Zion, Angel’s rest

Up there things of but what you could imagine.
But what you say?
Is that a tree or the wind’s whisper?
A person.
Over there, looks like the path?
You want to reach the top?
Yes.
It’s easier from over there. See? Up Walter’s Wiggles switch backs?
You can’t mistake it. Cool refreshing, fantastic view. You’ve never climbed it?
Not all the way up.
After you get up there, then Refrigerator Canyon. Cool in summer. Ten degrees.
Up and up, then this cool quiet. Refreshing. Then up again. Along the ridge this chain.
Use careful footing. Then this lofty view. Angel’s Landing. Clear to the top.
Great faces reds grays reflect the sun. And heat. Find a shadow. Turn and sit. When you rest you see the mirrors of the river far below.
Look out, look down. It has to be a long way down. I never got that high.
I shouldn’t if I didn’t have to.

***

It was on the way down we met
Descending. Cool from the refrigerator inching up. Now quiet. No sound of living. But all was music.
From the green below. The sound of it. How it spreads. Rises. Amplifies.
Blunts color, filters the songs remote or the winds that
Lift them higher than they really are.
Our Encounters differ.

***

A wren from a crevice on a wall spoke to me:
Am I to understand that you are interested in establishing a rapport with the beyond?
He cocked his head. Looked far away.
Nothing stirs..
Wait until you are spoken to.
Things are livening up.. all is..
All is, all is, all is what?
What all is? In a word?
No a sound. Your descending notes..
Is that what you want to know. Just a moment.
Out there.
Never seen anything like that.
The light is sunk.
We all know that.
There, over there, a little bit left.
And now?
All gone.
The wren peered into the cleft..
What do you see in there?
Gray?
Gray,
Lead?
No gray.
Did I hear you say gray?
Yes.
Not black.
No, not black.
You exaggerate.
Perhaps.
You do this everyday?
Yes.
Why?
Routine. We all have them.
What now?
Something is taking its course.
Up there, over there, now it’s gone.
Gone?
Yes gone.
Supposed a rational something were watching us from up there. Would she think
Us together. Would we now mean something?
Mean something?
If she watched long enough. Paid attention.
I would never have thought you capable of such a misunderstanding. When I speak of emerging from the shadows from that crevice, I mean from the unreality, the flickering concealment in which we sometimes sense the presence of the unusual. It spreads out like a mist net that torments us because it neither holds us tight or lets us go out enough to be free..
Don’t you think there have been times the world were otherwise?
When our inner lives lived a stronger presence? You mean?
Perhaps. When there were some of us who walked as you do or flew in light as I or as you might say walked or flew in holiness?
Perhaps.
You are a silly man, the bird said, swallowed then bobbed his head.
The wren puffed himself up to sing but then continued. I was surprised at the firmness in how he talked to me, instructed me. How it seemed possible without displaying any special elation for him to cling up there stare down at the interloper and warble this sort of thing at me.
I was shocked, even infuriated. Our unanimity had been just this silly coincidence, but I felt myself checking my inner readiness always prepared for the attack, so I could go on the defensive and hide any need to show him my dreams and tenderness and awe? How superficial appearances are..
Always different from what you’d suspect, the bird added.
Why?
Because we now talk of seraphic love?
You regard that as a possibility?
I wish you wouldn’t laugh. This is serious business.
Yes, I understand. You are a sensitive person. Poetry and Music must move you.
Yes.
They do me too.
The wren warbles a descending scale.
His pearls of melody interrupt my thoughts, separate them one from another but at the end they slide back together, slowly, with grace..
How wrong, how superficial first appearances are. With your pearls you scratch the silver on my reflections.. I have now lapses, whole ideas missing because of those notes, where now coolness gazes through the blind holes in my mind; would have been insights, I’m sure.
Seems now the day deepens more.
Blackness from that cleft spews out like smoke, threatens, darkens.. He interrupts–
I am sure you are touched by a breath of sunlight?
Yes. Indeed, I am.
He warbles his pattern- a spiral necklace of notes descending. He was so close to me. So close I could see his throat rise and fall to form each pearl. I could almost reach out and grasp each syrinxeal emanation..
Answers arose somewhere down there in the distance and then again from above. But the ending trills differed each time. Other wrens were singing now..
My bird responded.
Yes, he was right. Miracles happen in reality because miracles are an ever-present form of a deeper reality. We just have to train our ears.
That’s the question. The wren could read my thoughts. A breath of something. That is the question isn’t it? And now you want me to get to the bottom of it for you with all that human passion of your idealism? I shall close with this. Hardly anyone realizes this. True greatness has no rational basis. I mean to say, everything beautiful is strong and simple.
With that the wren emitted another volley, a long warble of notes, the last two slurred, and dove down into the valley.

James Lawry

About James Lawry

Jim Lawry was born in 1940, raised in San Francisco and educated at Stanford University in biology and at UCSF in medicine. After a full life of research, university teaching and caring for patients and helping folks learn how exciting doing science can be, he is now retired in Inverness California, where he continues his lifelong interests in playing cello, painting and writing plays and poetry. His first book of Poems Beyond the Breakwater, reflects Jim’s diverse interests. Jim learns daily how to endure life as it is and how he must let it shape herself according to her own laws.
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