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  • Writer's pictureChar Seawell

Searching for the Elegant Trogon

We are all, I think, searching for something to bring us closer to the heart of hope. As the poet Emily Dickinson once mused, “Hope is a thing with feathers,” capturing in just a few words how elusive hope is and yet how it constantly captures our imagination, lifted just above our grasp by the capricious turnings of a slight breeze. In a sense, we are all addicted to hope, and it is an addiction planted in our very DNA.

It is hope that seemed most elusive these last few years when the world collapsed into itself during the pandemic. Routines were disrupted, relationships severed, and reality itself changed with lightening speed before our very eyes. In the void, depression and suicide rates soared, addictions started, renewed or deepened, and the simple human connections that sustained us in our difficulties were unavailable.

During these times, my soul, parched and hungering for hope, sought the consolation of Deception Pass. Or perhaps, whatever the name of the place, I sought the consolation of the sea. Scanning the horizon of a sea that stretched beyond my ability to grasp, I felt the cool salt air saturate my lungs moistening my breath. Jeans rolled up, walking in the gentle lapping of cold waves, my nerve endings came alive and their rhythm against my skin created a soft melody of joy. Hope lived on the sea, and I wanted to immerse myself in its depths.

In some sense, we are now weaving our way back into a “new normal” which, for me, has also brought a move from the ocean’s consolation to the desert’s subtle comfort. But a search for hope continues, and so my addiction to experiencing nature takes me now to Madera Canyon at sunrise.

I am not alone. A man parks his car next to mine, and I watch as he unfolds what must be his at least 6’5” thin build and begins spraying insect spray.

“I suspect you are running these hills today,” I comment, and he answers in a thick French accent that he has driven for over two hours to run these hills wherever they lead him. When he inquires of my destination, I can only answer as I always do,

“I don’t know.”

As I climb for the first time to an unknown destination, the air is thick with insect songs which almost seem like human voices to me. When a solitary man overtakes me on the trail, I ask him if he ever has trouble distinguishing between insect voices and human ones. He glances at me as though I have lost my mind, “Never…”

Out of breath and with limited water, I turn back down the trail. A couple approaches, their breath labored and slow, and ask with great anticipation,“Is this the Carrie Nation trail? Will this lead us to the bench? We hear we can see the Elegant Trogon there!”

I apologize for the fact that this is my first time on the trail, and my inquiry about the Elegant Trogon leads to an encyclopedia of information about this rare bird that is said to be visiting Madera Canyon at this time of year.

“Birders are coming from everywhere to try and find it. Soon this canyon will be full of them,” they share, and then hurriedly continue their climb.

Filled with this new information, as I head down the trail, I ask each group of hikers,

“Are you looking for the Elegant Trogon?”

“No, we want to lose weight and get in shape,” reply two young men with walking sticks.

In their wake appear two obviously fit for nature elderly men.

“Are you looking for the Elegant Trogon?”

“No…but be sure to get your souvenir backpack and water bottle when you find one,” one comments humorously, and I hear their laughter trailing behind them as they disappear around a corner.

As I find my way back to the car, I think that maybe everyone in this canyon is looking for hope. One finds it in the thoughts that abound on a solitary hike. Another finds it in the sound of blood pumping through veins and the pounding of steps on a rocky high country trail. Some find it in the camaraderie of a shared goal. Others find it in the elusive quest for the sight of a teal feather, a dash of scarlet, and a striped tail.

We are all searching for something whether it be found at the bottom of a bottle or a trail in the highest hills. We are all searching for a moment of grace and a touch of mercy, which spring from the heart of hope. No matter how high we climb or how low we fall, we are all looking for that fragile feather lofted in the breeze of the poet.

Because we are, everyone one of us, hopelessly addicted to hope.

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