Reading the Birds from Leaping by Brian Doyle
from Brian Doyle’s book Leaping, Revelations & Epiphanies
They fly. They go where we cannot go. They lift themselves into the air and dream away. A simple process: weighing next to nothing, hollow boned, with lung capacities a hundred times greater than ours, they swim into the air and stay there, their wings marshaling what poet William Blake called the First Element…
They are what we once were: vigorous creatures fully immersed in the physical world. For better, I think, human beings long ago grew out of that immersion and strove toward a different world, one of reason, one of the spirit. But we do well when we pay attention to our forbears, who are exuberant: we do evil when we cast them aside as appendages, servants, underlings, tool. We are ourselves underlings to something vast, and scrabbling for power among servants is a battle of children in dust.
In them is poetry, energy, joy: in them is life, pure and untrammeled, unadulterated and holy. We learn most and best about life by contemplating life; that is why we stare achingly at our children as they sleep, that is why our happiest moments are those spent in the arms and hearts of those who love us, that is why we are inexplicably pleased when a sparrow pauses for a second at the window and regards us with an irrepressible eye. Small as she is, she is our teacher and our companion, our fellow tatter torn from the cloak of the Maker. She is a small vigorous prayer, a hymn with wings, a smile given life and set aloft. p. 129