The Guardian of Life
One summer evening as my brethren danced and celebrated behind the arched gates of the great hall, I left my village and followed the river into the mountains to seek the truth of life.
I followed the path of the eagle as it soared until I came upon a hermitage set on a precipitous ledge, high and remote from traffic. I climbed a rope ladder to gain the hermitage and I saw that the eagle had alighted upon its roof.
A swarthy skinned man of grey beard and torn robes came forth from the dwelling and implored me to leave him alone. Then seeing the eagle he cried, offered his hand and dragged me up. Fear moved through his eyes like a scorpion beneath leaves.
“Why do you live thus? High in the mountains, away from life?”
And he replied: “Away from life? I am the guardian of life! Life came this way when I was a youth and its memory shall never grow dim!” As he spoke he wept and beat his breast.
“What do you speak of? What life came your way?” I asked surveying the kingdom of mountain spires arrayed all around.
Thereupon he looked westward, into the setting sun, until I feared he would become blind from the crimson fire. Then he turned and dazzled me with the brilliant suns of his eyes.
“I could not let it go.” He spoke quietly. “I took it from the sky and kept it safe, that I may always look upon it, and be near the life of life. I saved it from the reckless wind of the mountains, the tempestuous rain, the obliterating stab of lightning and the suffocating snow!”
As the sun moved below the horizon I asked: “Do you still hold life?”
“Yes” he replied and led me slowly into his shrine on the mountain top.
And upon his wooden altar I saw that day the butterfly in a wooden case, crucified by two nails, held by its fragile wings as if in flight.
And I fled weeping back to my village, following the faint silhouette of the eagle through the night, back to the fair laughter of my home village.
By Ian Bond June 09