birds in the gaps

Just a glimpse, Moses: a clift in the rock here, a mountaintop there, and the rest is denial and longing. You have to stalk everything…And then occasionally the mountains part…Now we rejoice…“Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not.” The fleeing shreds I see, the back parts, are a gift, an abundance...

I’ve never seen so many birds here at once, of all different kinds. They were dancing, jumping, twirling, playing, singing for joy. There’s no other way to put it. From tree to tree, branch to branch, flying solo and in pairs. Their songs melded into a boisterous chorus. I watched first from my window. When I knew their number was greater and more uproarious than usual, I went outside and watched them from the deck in the cool of the morning. A playground of birds. I could swear they were laughing as only birds can. At themselves, at one another, at the little life they live in the air and on evergreen branches. I could have wept for their happiness, when it is often so far from me. Whatever they hold in their tiny little bird hearts, it makes their hearts that much bigger than my self-conscious human heart. Whatever freedom they have—perhaps it’s spending so much time in the air—I want to ask them for a little, to tell me their secret of such overindulgent happiness.

Speaking of glimpses, this was one. And my eyes fill with the thought of that little piece of heaven right outside my window, right above me as I watched from the deck amazed, the small birds rollicking and witty in every tree. A fragment of the whole we cannot see. For a moment, a shard of what should be falls into place, nearly perfect, almost flawless. This one fell into place right before my eyes, unexpectedly and graciously, as if the flock of friendly birds were destined to put on their full morning display just for me, on this morning of this day. 

I wanted to know their names, I wanted to look at every one and by heart know its kind. But I didn’t. As soon as I tried, they left. All was suddenly still and silent as their band dispersed. As if once I began the attempt to name them they knew the show was over, their time was up. In the attempt to name the ineffable, we lose all the magic. The moment’s immanence is in its mystery.

Perhaps I just happened to be in the right place at the time. Perhaps the birds gather this way often and I never noticed before. It’s irrelevant. For what I witnessed happened for the first time in history, and was seen only with my eyes. It never happened before, and will never happen again. An eternal once. Heaven within a temporal moment.

Ezekiel excoriates the false prophets as those who have “not gone up into the gaps.” The gaps are the thing. The gaps are the spirit’s one home…The gaps are the clifts in the rock where you cower to see the back parts of God…Go up into the gaps…Stalk the gaps…Squeak into a gap in the soil, turn, and unlockmore than a Maplea universe. This is how you spend this afternoon, and tomorrow morning, and tomorrow afternoon. Spend the afternoon. You can’t take it with you. – Annie Dillard

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