My husband and I really fell for Netflix after our son was born, and we have regular date nights throughout the week with our favorite red envelopes. The latest obsession, months long now, is Northern Exposure, and we’re currently in Season Five. He got ahead of me by an episode, so I sat down to watch that one during nap time today. I always enjoy the show but was unexpectedly drawn into a particular storyline in this one. Marilyn, Dr. Fleishman’s assistant, tells his visiting mother that she is an Eagle–that she has an eagle spirit or eagle nature. Intrigued, Ma Fleishman goes with Marilyn to look for eagles at a place known as Lookout Point. Why is she an Eagle? Marilyn tells her this story.
The Eagle wasn’t always the Eagle. The Eagle, before he became the Eagle, was Yucatangee, the Talker. Yucatangee talked and talked. It talked so much it heard only itself. Not the river, not the wind, not even the Wolf. The Raven came and said “The Wolf is hungry. If you stop talking, you’ll hear him. The wind too. And when you hear the wind, you’ll fly.” So he stopped talking. And became its nature, the Eagle. The Eagle soared, and its flight said all it needed to say.
I am someone who can easily get lost in words. My life is filled with the noise of living in the city (firetrucks, buses, car stereos), child (music, banging, laughing, whining), and the cracks in between are filled with my chatter or someone else’s. Dr. Fleishman’s mother continued to go to Lookout Point throughout her visit until the noise and chatter finally ceased and she was able to hear the wind. Literally, as only Northern Exposure can pull off, she trips and glides down the hundred foot drop to the ground. She becomes her Eagle nature.
This week I also read an article in Ode magazine about Nyepi, the Hindu new year and day of silence and meditation in Bali. The entire article is worth your time, but I’ll highlight one paragraph. We know our lives are noisy, right? Tijn Touber elaborates on the Western problem of noise (he earlier compares the need for regular periods of silence with the body’s need for regularly going to the bathroom, though most of us deny the former need):
In Western countries, the modern, runaway 24-hour economy has clearly won the battle against people who want to “go to the bathroom” regularly. Forget about days of silence, occasionally leaving the car in the garage or shopping-free Sundays. Many countries are literally never silent. A few years ago, a Belgian radio journalist was given the task of recording five minutes of silence somewhere in the Flanders region. The poor man spent months working on the project, day and night. Each recording was interrupted by trains, cars, airplanes, radios, voices, sirens. He was finally forced to conclude it was impossible to find five minutes of silence anywhere in Flanders.
All this noise is keeping us from hearing the wind. It’s fitting, then, that the Hebrew word for wind (ruach) also means breath and spirit. When writing about the very spirit of God that breathed the world into being and hovered over the nothingness, it is this Holy Wind that the Hebrew writers recall. It is the noise, my own and that of the world around me, that keeps me from listening and hearing. If I can be still, if I can be silent, and if I can listen…then maybe I can fly.