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Perfect Illustrations: In Larry Toschik's Words

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© Larry Toschik

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The world of eagles, hawks and owls is remarkable, strange, mysterious — and very beautiful. It is woven into the tapestry of Arizona, one of the many threads which together create the overall magnificence of this land.

Their lives, being played out among the cliffs and canyons of Arizona, are of some significance to us. They fit into the scheme of life in such an important way, that if for one reason or another they would drop out of the action, our lives would be dramatically affected, perhaps seriously so.

At first glance the Sonoran Desert country of Arizona's southern lowlands and the chaparral and pine of the central mountains may seem devoid of life. But, in truth, the land fairly teems with small rodents and a great variety of reptiles. Insects by day and night scurry and flit in uncounted trillions, carrying on their appointed tasks. Without a natural controlling agent these secretive populations would wreak havoc to the balance that keeps the Arizona wilderness a monument of rare beauty.

Eagles, hawks and owls perform their parts in this play of harmony with an exciting flair for dramatics.

* * *

At the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, I was treated to a special moment of excitement by the actions of a raven. Ravens are not raptors but they do share the same general habitat as eagles, hawks and owls.

Sunrise over the North Rim is one of the great spectacles on the surface of this planet. The eastern sky was just beginning to flood with an indescribably pink radiance when I found my way to the edge of the Canyon rim. The vast basin was still brimful of the vapored blue of pre-dawn. The only sounds were the almost intangible roar of the deeply distant Colorado River and the wind in the pines whispering behind me. Above this gentle wilderness music I heard the croaking of a raven, flying just above the trees behind me. I turned to watch it for a moment, the black sheen of its wings reflecting the first rosy beams of the lifting sun. Then I turned back to watched the profound visual shock of the Canyon being moulded in sunrise. Human eyes cannot easily grasp at first sight the incredible depths and distances of the splendid mountain monuments shouldered one against the other into infinity. It takes a moment or two for the impact to wash over us before our vision can interpret the dimensions of this chasm of glory … a mystic mile-deep winding into the spiritland of distance … one glowing tapestry hung before another, on and on and on.

The raven, still croaking its raucous cry, then glided overhead.

At the instant it slipped past the edge of the crystal abyss its call changed into a beautiful, deep, flute-like yodeling. This flapping black spectre became the epitomy of aerial grace, turning one somersault after the other over that canyon of color … a thrilling tribute to joy.

Did this raven see as we see? Did the sudden sensational falling away of land trigger a trip-hammer heartbeat? Did the awesome deep beneath the Canyon wall, aglow with luminous dawn, literally burst the bonds of its emotions and evoke this superb expression? For that moment my heart did acrobatics with that raven. Below us the Canyon was a three-dimensional cathedral window shot full of color, and we were one spirit merging with the light of sunrise, one with the glory of light sculpturing those magnificent Canyon forms in endless glowing pinks, roses, violets, lavenders and blues. Seeing an exquisite natural masterpiece had transformed a mere raven into a poem of song-filled motion.

* * *

When we look at the realm of the eagles, hawks, and owls and marvel at their special wonderment, it would behoove us all to remember Psalm 26-8:

Oh Lord, I love the beauty of Your house and the place where Your glory dwells.

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