Traveller's tales

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Beaks of Eagles - Big Sur

The Big Sur coastline, immortalised in the poems of Robinson Jeffers, is a wilderness – that most threatened of all our environments. Wildernesses afford all living things the space they need to live.

Although a wilderness is, by definition, a place devoid of human habitation, or at least largely devoid of it, wildernesses are also vital for people too.

In places that are wild, free of the trappings of modern life, or anything approaching what we term ‘civilisation’ at all, a person can find herself, find who she is, what she is like, what she can do or can only do with difficulty.

In a wilderness, she finds closer ties to nature. We say ‘Mother Nature’ for a very good reason – She nurtures us and provides us with everything we need. The real value of a wilderness is that it can show us how little we need – how much of what we think we need, is actually superfluous, or even detrimental to our lives as beings.

Robert L. Fielding
'The Beaks of Eagles'
Robinson Jeffers

An eagle's nest on the head of an old redwood on one of the precipice-footed ridges Above Ventana Creek, that jagged country which nothing but a falling meteor will ever plow; no horsemanWill ever ride there, no hunter cross this ridge but the winged ones, no one will steal the eggs from this fortress. The she-eagle is old, her mate was shot long ago, she is now mated with a son of hers.When lightning blasted her nest she built it again on the same tree, in the splinters of the thunderbolt.The she-eagle is older than I; she was here when the fires of eighty-five raged on these ridges,She was lately fledged and dared not hunt ahead of them but ate scorched meat. The world has changed in her time;Humanity has multiplied, but not here; men's hopes and thoughts and customs have changed, their powers are enlarged,Their powers and their follies have become fantastic, The unstable animal never has been changed so rapidly. The motor and the plane and the great war gone over him, And Lenin has lived and Jehovah died: while the mother-eagleHunts her same hills, crying the same beautiful and lonely cry and is never tired; dreams the same dreams,And hears at night the rock slides rattle and thunder in the throats of these living mountains. It is good for man To try all changes, progress and corruption, powers, peace and anguish, not to go down the dinosaur's wayUntil all his capacities have been explored; and it is good for him To know that his needs and nature are no more changed in fact in ten thousand years than the beaks of eagles."

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