Monday, December 5, 2011
A Flight to the Nether Lands
I love this song. It never fails to inspire me. I sit here listening to it and find that every hair on the back of my neck is standing straight up.
Just before college I went up to Alaska to fish and work in the canneries to raise money for school. The first year, I went, we had lots of time off because the fishermen were on strike that season. So instead of spending it getting drunk or stoned like the most of my friends, I went climbing.
We climbed in the mountains in back of Kodiak (town) and also the ones in back of our cannery in Uyak Bay. It was so magnificent to see the sparkling bay spread out in front, to taste the bone-chillingly cold snow melt water, and to feel the breeze lift tendrils of sweat-plastered hair as the sun drenched us like warm chicken soup.
One day off as we hiked up behind the cannery, Mike (a friend) and I got between a mama bear and her two cubs. We'd never hiked so fast in our lives (so...no pictures).
By the time we got to the top, we were just blasted. We kicked back in the foot-deep reindeer moss and luxuriated in the fragrant sponginess. Mike had brought his tape deck and I'd given him my Netherlands tape to play.
Just as that song came on, up over the brow of the mountain rose a bald eagle, breathtakingly magnificent in it's majesty. It had almost a five foot wingspan. The breeze riffled its feathers, which were limned by the golden afternoon light. Its keen eye pierced me, as if it could see my thoughts.
Mike and I didn't even want to breathe, let alone move. I was worried that the music would send the bird diving away. On the contrary, the eagle seemed to be listening to the music as it hung suspended about a yard and a half above us on the thermal column.
Finally the song ended; and, too, the eagle seemed to be released from its spellbound state. It slipped over the crest of the mountain and glided spiraling downward into the misty distance.
The moment was one of those perfect moments caught as if in amber, sharp and brilliant. We couldn't speak for several minutes, just taking it all in. I stood up later and spread my arms and it felt almost as if I, too, could spiral down off that cliff top on a handy thermal. Joy radiated through out every sinew of my body. I felt as if I were made of light.
Netherlands distills, for me, a string of those kinds of moments. It was a free time in my life, in which I was at several kinds of crossroads. I had left home and family behind in Oregon and gone (unbeknown to them) up to Alaska to seek my fortune. I was embarking on my college career, exploring dating options, and most of all, examining what I truly believed about God and religion. It was no longer a time to rely on my parents' beliefs and testimonies.
So I really 'got' Dan's crossroads reference. I wanted to fly. I wanted to stretch my wings like that kingly raptor, and feel the sun on my face and the wind in my feathers. This song always makes me want to shut my eyes and raise my arms in flight, as I did so long ago on the peak of that mountain. In fact, I often do.
I offer these images as a morning gift to you.