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"Ah, my mind takes up..."

I suppose their little bones have years ago been lost among the stones and the winds of those high glacial pastures.

So far as I have been able to tell, there is an undeniable sense of otherness that comes home to someone the first time their eyes cross those words, or they hear them aloud. It may be small. It may be creeping. It may hit you all at once like the small hawk with his beak and his claws sunk into your thumb. Like the ensuing scars, it may never leave you. These words are handed to you by Loren Eiseley, a mid-to-late 20th century writer of many hats, in his essay ‘The Bird and the Machine.’

‘The Bird and the Machine,’ in the way that I know it, is spoken clear and kind to youth curled in their well-lived exhaustion on the smooth-worn planks of a barn in the warm dark of summer evenings. It circles the rest of my known world in occasional social media posts and by word of mouth; it comes calling in the painfully exuberant recollections of a fleeting and never-ending adolescence.

I am older now, and sleep less, and have seen most of what there is to see and am not very much impressed any more, I suppose, by anything.

Haven’t you uttered those words at some point, some way? You’re weary, little lover. I feel it too – we’re kin. I urge you in my own softness that you read the entirety of the text; if the little bones do not lace with your fingers in a way you won’t soon forget, more worldly sentiments like that second one will meet you with an aching familiarity of their own.

There are pieces of literature in this life that provide a universal homecoming. They may be so lengthy as a tome, or so abbreviated as a poem. This canon of human understanding is largely unchronicled. The best we can do is listen when people share the works that they love. Chances are, you’ll find yourself reflected in those words as well. Hold them in your hands for longer than the breath you feel you have to give them. There will be time for everything.

Start here.

… on the other hand”


The Bird and the Machine’ is available free online.


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