Friday, December 28, 2007

For Calling Birds

(Nota bene: these are not my photos....)
Today I drove back from a visit in Arkansas. While there I visited friends and heard from each a story of struggle, of pain, of things gone wrong. I can’t say that it weighed me down, but it made me more aware than usual of the truth that we rarely know what is really going on in the lives of people around us, and that life is hard.

As I drove home, I was listening to a CD of Celtic Christmas music. It was the first time I had heard all the verses to “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.” And I heard all the words, and it was beautiful, and I was thinking about angels and finding hope in a hard world. Verse three especially stayed on my mind.

And then, just as the sun was setting, I was giving up on seeing any Canadian geese, as I had (I thought) passed all the watery areas. But to my left I thought I saw some fluttering. I looked more closely, and there were geese out in the field. It was a field of stubble, with water between the rows of golden stalky rice remains, so they were hard to see.

I kept looking (as best one can while driving) and realized that there were lots of geese out there. I was going too fast to stop, but I pulled over at the first place I could find, turned around, and went back to a side road where I could pull off the main road and park.

I got out of the car and watched in wonder as hundreds and hundreds of geese fluttered about in the field, and hundreds and hundreds more came in to land. V-formation after V-formation approached in the sky, and they circled and slowly joined those in the field. A host of geese, ascending and descending upon this field of mud in the middle of nowhere.

And the sound! I had never heard anything like it. Honking, squawking, whatever you want to call it. It all combined to create such a sound that at first I wasn’t sure what I was hearing. I wasn’t even that close to them, and it filled the air and filled my ears and filled my mind with amazement. Like trumpets, but they were voices. They were calling, singing the song that, I suppose, brought them all together to a safe place, helped them sort themselves out.

And the sun set, and the geese decorated the golden-pink and gray sky with their outstretched wings, and car after car drove by, and people didn’t even notice.

As darkness came, I finally got back in my car, turned the music back on, and drove on.

And I wondered how many times we go down the road and don't even hear the angels sing.

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
“Peace on the earth, goodwill to men
From heaven’s all-gracious King!”
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled;
And still their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world:
Above its sad and lowly plains
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o’er its Babel sounds
The blessed angels sing.

O ye beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh, rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

For lo! The days are hastening on,
By prophets seen of old,
When with the ever-circling years
Shall come the time foretold,
When the new heaven and earth shall own
The Prince of Peace, their King,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.


Carisse said...

"Rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing" -- well, now, that was a beautiful post. I've seen a cut field between Searcy and Memphis full of geese, too. Thanks for seeing it with your eyes and sharing it with us.

Sheila said...

Thanks, Carisse! I'm glad we can share that experience. I would love to make it a tradition, if I could get the geese to send me an invitation, somehow....

Lucy said...

How marvellous! I'm writing this with tears in my eyes. What a perfect synchronicity of events, and how beautifully you tell of it.

Sheila said...

Yes, Lucy. The timing truly was perfect. It was one of those times when I felt very much like part of a bigger story, and I just happened to be alert to playing my part in it. If only I always were.

Lawrence Underwood said...

Thanks for sharing that moment. When we were travelling across the Arkansas Delta after Thanksgiving we pulled over and watched Snow, Blue, and Speckled Belly geese pour into a field for over fifteen minutes. It absolutely amazed Molly and Amy Jo who had never seen it. I was entranced realising how much I have missed seeing these sights. (One really should experience being hidden underneath that raucous whirling tornado of life as they land all round you at least just once.)

I reflected upon how it is possible to miss something and not even be aware of it. Subsurface pining I reckon.

Sheila said...

Lawrence--you know, I'm not sure what kind of geese these were. Some looked to be pure white; could they be snow geese? I just assumed Canada because they seem to be the most common. But some of these looked much smaller than the Canada geese I see around Memphis.

Lawrence Underwood said...

If they were mostly white they were probably Snows. They fly with Blues and Specks as well, so you will see some colour in the flock. Where they like a tornado coming down? I love it when they do that.

Sheila said...

Well, I don't know about a tornado. But there was lots of movement and energy, yes!