If you ever lose heart and the earth seems as distant as stars fading into the noise of your busy mind, know this. That a tiny island exists in the blue hands of the ocean. That a tree grows upright into the salted clouds. That two eagles love each other enough to spend their lives greeting the morning sun together. That two eaglets stand in their nest, gazing at the heavens. Looking down to the forever ground. They eat and sleep and flap their wings. And one day in July, one by one, they will jump into the air. They will know the difference between existing and what is beyond. They will hold onto nothing. The hurricane will come, courage catching their pinions on fire, as they mount the wind, climbing ladders into realms of the invisible.

--T.L. Stokes

Sunday, April 10, 2011

to my father's best friend

photography by Matt Eldridge

The Outgoing Tide

On the island off Vancouver
a drenched eagle pulls her ragged hat down
while the rain turns black falling
off her shoulders. Horrible mess we agree.
She dresses for it and her eggs
are warm.

All day we watched the Hornby eagle
while south into Puget Sound
Fox Island's north wind
falters a moment
then stands stock still
as the last heart beat
leaves the old man.

I think the shadows took to the ceiling
in a flutter of change. His life streaking
away like a seal and the waves
sometimes unrelentless, parted.

I know the loon called, and also
the barn owl in languages they
taught us at birth. Now my father
cries at 9:35 tonight
on the phone with me. Memorial
will be Saturday at 3. He never
went to church so they'll call it

His church was his boat
in the morning on the sky-colored
water. His bible the throttle on
the outboard motor. His prayer
was his eyes and the quiet
of his thoughts.

It was hard for the old fisherman
to live beyond Rosie. Hard for him
to leave the cabin after that,
so he spent his time looking
out the window. Dad thinks he watched eagles
along the north shoreline,
the loons and ducks beyond the dock.

Maybe he counted the strands of sun
coming over the mainland in morning.
Coffee in a mug on the table.
Or maybe he listened for the song-voice
of Rosie baking another Sunday brunch.
Seems he missed her more than the salty air,
or the tug on the fishing line,
or the heavy breezes wild and
dancing across the passage.

Wardie told half the old stories I heard.
He and my dad taught me how to bait
a hook, fish until twilight.
A good common man of the earth.
Smoked a pipe, raised children.
Knew how to fight a fire.
What gentle thing to say
and when to say it.

My favorite memory is a photograph.
Wardie sitting by the campfire,
hands smoothing the hair of our
old dog Rusty. His wife, my mom and dad,
all sitting by the fire with him,
that mesmerizing smoke look
in all of their eyes.

Beyond these things is nothing,
it is a silence, the night,
as I begin to sleep. My brother
comforts my father and if you
listen closely enough
the sea rises slowly
for the next high tide.

"May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be ever at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face and the rain fall softly on your fields. And until we meet again, May God hold you in the hollow of his hand."

Safe passage Wardie. Tell Rosie hi from
all of us old Fox Islanders.

T.L. Stokes

1 comment:

  1. With tears in my eyes thank you.-Peg L.