Saturday morning, sweet summer. My shoulders hurt because I can’t spread my wings. I should be able to fly. Get in a car and go. Find some lake, throw up my tent, jump in the water. Build a fire and watch it as the summer sky darkens, watch it dream into golden embers, half-sleep in the tent listening to the night, or if I’m alone sleep out on the sand and watch the milky way, look for Cassiopeia and Perseus and Andromeda, wake in the cold almost-dawn hoping for an early glimpse of Orion. Crawl crabwise out of my sleeping bag and walk into the water to wash away the night. Pick my way through the forest, from bird-call to bird-call like an acoustic dot-to-dot until I find a sunny rock, and in its mossy crevices find a micro-world, its ridges now mountain ranges, its cracks great canyons, and build cities on it and map their histories as they war among themselves. Back at the camp-site a grey jay approaches, friendly and fearless, to share my lunch. My goal is some wild hotspring lost up a logging road, and as I drive I hope for bears, maybe an elk. For a while I drive beside the creek, still full and roaring, scrubby bush along its flanks, water ripping into white foam around rocks. A clearing, fireweed and hawkweed, huckleberries here, I pick and eat wondering what bear claims this trove, and drive on.
None of this. My wings are alive and quivering but I have no eyes. I cannot bear the sun. What tiny optic tissue remains is burned even behind expensive sun-glasses. I am an eagle in a cage, but I am not mad with it. I have made some kind of peace, and angels support me. They enlarge the cage and make it beautiful. Visitors come. None stay, but when they come I organize myself into something comprehensible and offer them what I have. Some can’t bear it.
I am alone. It is not terrible. I have found peace inside this place, but it is interwoven with sorrow. How can you not try, on such a morning, to open your wings? And then, when the quick heat of the day cools and the snow-cooled wind comes down from the mountain on whose north slope this little town is placed, and I sit on my porch swing and rock, how can I not think “I am alone”?
There were children once. There was a woman. I have loved men. I have pressed into a warm body and slept beside someone who loved me. I have walked hand in hand with her on a sweet morning like this, buying fresh bread and fruit, drinking coffee in the city, or wandered alone and reading in some cafe. My wings beat sometimes on the wall, but I have become a little wiser, and I don’t want to break them. I am cautious in my sorrow.
I am cautious with my mind. Words are a fierce seduction and once said, they create a world. I am a fallen tree, rotting in the forest, but young trees are growing out of the wreckage, and ferns, and little white mushrooms. I remember reaching up, strong and inexorable, stretching my branches to the sky, but in my wreckage I still support life and it won’t do to be too extreme in my grief. The life force is slow, but the heart always longs for flight. The constraints approach the limit of bearable, but if I stay still I feel the little ecstasies that flicker in the ruins.