Wednesday, September 13, 2006


One summer evening not long ago in a certain part of Tokyo, a big city up north, hundreds of households right at the pinnacle of prime time were suddenly plunged into an unfamiliar state known in pre-electric times as "utter darkness."

Workmen were sent out at once to bring back the light. After searching fruitlessly for the usual technological glitch, the workmen broadened their horizons and discovered a large, well-done eel stretched across some high-tension lines, shorting them out. It was concluded that the eel had been dropped on the wires by a fishing hawk. The workmen removed the eel, the power came back on and all was resolved. Or so the reporters seem to think.

But something whispering from where the ancient ones live tells me that, given the symbolic and mythological history of hawks and eels, there is more to this event than merely modern reportage would have us believe. Some almost forgotten kind of paleoreportage is needed, that considers the opinions of nature, heeds the voices of hawks and eels.

Nature is never mute, whether we're listening or not. And as with the occasional nuclear reactor blowout, the widening ozone holes over the ends of the earth, the barely measurable rises in sea level or the growing numbers of increasingly powerful hurricanes, the hawk-eel conspiracy was, I suspect, another of nature's many local attempts to tell us something we've forgotten how to hear.

Nature has always been advising us, but we haven't paid much attention since we entered prime time; and natural advice rendered in hawk-and-eel syntax is hard to grasp nowadays, when so many are deaf to what remains of the wild. But hawks have aboriginally been respected as sky-high visionaries and spirit guides; and eels, mythologically ever at the bottom of it all, are no strangers to high voltage.

Our own bodies as well, urbane as they've become, have always run on electrical power, though for millions of years we were in the dark about that; we only discovered electricity a few millennia ago, named it after amber and are still fiddling with the knobs, don't understand it, anybody seen the remote?

Maybe the hawk gave up its meal to say don't forget the darkness, if you want to know the light. Maybe the eel surrendered its life to remind us not to treat power like a slave, if we want to be free. Maybe nature was saying rejoin the big conversation out there, before the father of all hawks drops the mother of all eels.

Or maybe it meant no more than anything else does.


Chancy said...

"don't forget the darkness, if you want to know the light"

I like that Robert.

Some years back we stayed in an older house at the beach which had iffy electrical wiring. At least once a week a frisky squirrel would dance along the high voltage wires until he fried himself and the electricity would go out.

Somehow I cannot read anything poetic into fried squirrel on a wire can you?

kenju said...

"hawks have aboriginally been respected as sky-high visionaries and spirit guides".....

Now you have me thinking. For 2-3 years, we had a hawk that lived in our woods and rid us of all little critters such as moles, snakes and squirrels. Now he is gone; we haven't seen him all summer, which makes me sad. I wonder why he left.

Winston said...

We are constantly barraged with warnings, but we are to busy to care, or as you say, "we've forgotten how to hear."

When I worked as an engineer's aide for an electric utility years ago, one of my tasks was tracking power outages. By far the majority were caused by animals getting fried while nesting, resting or just warming themselves atop pole mounted transformers. Over time, that's a lot of cooked squirrels, snakes, birds, raccoons, 'possums, etc. and a lot of dead transformers, back then filled with deadly PCBs.

Maya's Granny said...

When I first moved to Juneau we had power outages about once a week. They were usually the national bird frying on a wire. And then they stopped. No idea why, what made the difference. Did we just run out of eagles that were stupid enough to grasp a hot wire tightly?