elusive but not extinct: i think i’ve been stuck in a hole

bird

noun

1 a warm-blooded egg-laying vertebrate animal distinguished by the possession of feathers, wings, a beak, and typically by being able to fly.

Unless they fall down a hole that is.

We found a bird last week. It had fallen down a construction hole and had not been able to get out. Poor little bird looked rather ruffled and was unable to walk properly or fly after being stuck in the hole for a couple of days. My dad, being the great man that he is, rescued the bird and took it home. After having stuffed worms, weetbix and caterpillars down his throat, the magpie looked a little happier and then went off to stay with a vet until he fully recovers.

Lately, I have felt a little like a bird stuck down a hole. Work is busy. So busy and so tiring. I feel like only get little glimpses of the sun every now and then, but am too stuck in my busy hole to get out and fully enjoy the sun. Despite the work, I have found some ways to escape the monotony a little. One of these is through reading.

Strangely enough, the story I’m reading is about a bird. Well, kind of anyway.

the_conjurors_bird_jkt.jpg It’s called The Conjuror’s Bird, a story that wonderfully weaves the story of Joseph Banks and the woman he loves in the Eighteenth Century with a modern detective plot about a professor and his student assistant who go in search of the “Mysterious Bird of Ulieta”: a bird that is now extinct. It may seem like a silly premise to go in search of an extinct bird but really, it is quite compelling. A single specimen of the bird was once known to exist and was briefly in the possession of Joseph Banks – a botanist and naturalist who accompanied Captain James Cook on his expeditions to the Southern Hemisphere – until it disappeared without a trace.

The book is beautifully written as you will discover upon reading this excerpt:

“He never told her of the night in Otaheite when she came so strongly into his thoughts. There had been a feast and dancing and he had been at the centre of both, laughing and shouting and clapping hands with every person there. Then, as he paused for breath, he caught a glimpse through the palms of moonlight on the sea and without a thought he slipped away to the water’s edge. There he stood for a while, strangely detached from the noise behind him, suddenly aware of the night sounds: the wind in the trees, insect song, waves very far away breaking on rocks or a reef. And as he stood and absorbed the beauty of the place, he found himself all at once filled with an overwhelming sadness, an aching melancholy that flooded out of him until it seemed to fill the night.

At first he didn’t understand. But as he waited in the shadow of the trees, he began to realise it was the moment itself he was grieving for, that whispering moonlit night that could never be his to keep. No matter how many birds and plants he gathered together in the hold of the Endeavour, he could never take back with him the perfection of that moment. And it was when he thought of her and her drawing, and he knew that if she had been there, then this was the place he would have found her: curled by the shore, quietly storing away every nuance of the night.”

Can you see how it gives me wings? It’s a beautiful and compelling book.

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2 Responses to “elusive but not extinct: i think i’ve been stuck in a hole”

  1. candyinsierras Says:

    Lovely prose.

  2. missmellifluous Says:

    I thought so too.

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