MYSTICISM: Fifteen Ways of Seeing the Light — (11) Watching for Eagles, by Peter Friederici

From the Georgia Review

 . . . the natural limitation so flight sempiternally deny the satisfaction of desire.  For this is the inherent irony of vision, that it reveals to us the space beyond our bodies, and the shortness of our grasp.  Visual perception makes it possible for us to grasp for what is beyond, and, at the same time, to realize that we cannot reach it.”
—    F. Gonzalez-Crussi, The Five Senses

For a while, on the job, all we had to do was watch eagles, so as a wet spring was slowly baked into the crispness of summer, I scanned the sere landscape all afternoon for a glimpse of broad wings.  With a job such as that one has time to think and to gather superstitions, and I came to believe that the best way to find eagles is to not look, to empty the mind of all expectation.  But still I looked.  I looked and my eyes struggled for a grip on a distant speck the way a drowning man at sea might search the horizon for a ship, or even the slightest smudge of smoke, until with the very effort of looking the whole afternoon grew flat, and I was unable anymore to focus properly, to perceive any real depth in the jumble of mountain and canyon rock.

“Sometimes it seems there’s nothing but light out there,” said Jean, who sat looking for eagles with me.

Half-dizzy, I lay down and squeezed my eyelids almost shut, thinking of the time I found a screech owl roosting in a tree during the day, gray as bark, eyes squeezed shut but head revolving to follow my sound, too sun-dazed to look around.  In the pale slit of light that drizzled in through my eyelashes, the specks I saw were the shapes of birds, winging fast.

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