Saturday, March 28, 2009

In Search of Q

In Search of Q

(Part One: On pursuing the Resplendent Quetzal and not finding it)

I went to the place where I thought you would be,
I got up early, before the sun rose,
and went to the quiet place
at the foot of the rock, where it is said that you often visit
in the early morning hours.

I sat there, in the early morning hours at the base of the rock,
and waited for you to come.

From the farthest reaches of the earth come tourists
wanting a glimpse of your iridescent splendor,
Your red, green, and teal feathers,
Your spiky crown and rainbow plumage.

From Europe, Canada, the United States, and all parts of the world,
Come tourists with fishing hats, khaki vests,
And cameras with lenses longer than my arm,
To catch a glimpse of your resplendent grandeur.

I don't come from far off,
I don't have huge cameras,
And I'm not spending hundreds of dollars a night,
to stay in the big fancy places.

Yet they return with stories of sightings,
with photos of you and stories about the
elusive displays they witnessed.

I just came here this morning,
simple and plainly,
to see you.

And you didn't show up.

Is it because I don't know what I'm looking for?
Did I pass you several times but fail to recognize your call
Or see your colors through the dense jungle growth?

Is it because I'm here at the wrong time?
 Am I wearing the wrong color?
Am I making too much noise?

I have read that this is your sanctuary...
It is here you make your glory shine.
The guides have pointed me in this direction...
“Here is where you are bound to see them,”
they assured me.
Others have confirmed your presence in this area,
with photographs and stories and bright-eyed stories of
The Experience.
Yet you have not made yourself known to me.

I came here intentionally,
with the hope and desire to see you.
But as is often the case,
For reasons I cannot explain,
You never showed up.

This is not the first time, my elusive Q.
I have written this story again, and again,
in constant search for you.
I begin to fear people might think I've given up searching,
but this is not the case; I show up faithfully
every morning in hopes of seeing you.

I went. I waited. But you never showed up.

Part 2: On considering the possibility that the quetzal appears and yet I tell no one

And after so long writing these poems about how I strove
to meet with you,
but you never showed up,
It occurs to me that there are likely scores of others
who have gone in search of the resplendent quetzal
and returned without the sparkling-eyed stories
of colorful plumage and extravagant displays.
They likely sit quietly and listen to others tell their stories
filled with a mixture of hope, expectation, wonder,
and emptiness, yearning, and the only question in this world more powerful than “Why do these things happen to me?”
“Why DON'T these things happen to me?”

I think to myself,
even if I did see the elusive quetzal,
Would I tell anyone about it?
Would I keep it a secret between me and him?
And for myself: Would I remain in ardent pursuit, showing up every morning in hope of seeing him, if I had seen him with my own eyes, taken a photo, and in a sense captured his beauty?

What would I do if I actually SAW this brilliant creature before my very eyes this morning?

I know the story I want to tell.
I want to say that I went out that morning to the quiet place at the foot of the rock.
I wrote the poem about longing and searching,
Hoping, praying, and believing he would show up.
And after patient waiting, praying, full of faith and assurance,
He showed up.

That is story I want to tell. That is the story people's itching ears want to hear.

But something inside me stops short, thinking...
If he WERE to show up,
why tell the story with such certainty and conviction
as so many have done before?
That is not what I felt. That is not what happened.

And if he WERE to show up,
what if I were to tell the story as it so often happens in real life?
Wherein I put the lens on my camera,
Put away my binoculars,
and walk out of the jungle dejected and discouraged,
That I was there waiting,
and he never showed up?

What IF I were to keep the sighting to myself and never tell anyone whether the wondrous quetzal showed up, or not?

Would I dishonor him? Or glorify him perhaps, offering hope and renewed passion in those who have showed up so often at the foot of the rock to see the elusive quetzal, but have not. And yet, with a stubborn determination and blind resilience only love can give, return to the rock again,
and again,
and again,
in hopes of seeing the desire of their heart
flashing and swooping and beaming with color.

On the other hand,
I would angrily condemn the one who had never spotted the quetzal,
yet proclaimed his story as if he had,
and besides, his pretentiousness would be evident,
as he attempted to contrive an experience he never had.

In the same way, having then seen the quetzal,
perhaps I would not even be able to pretend,
in good faith or full transparency,
that I had never seen it.
Such an experience, as it cannot be faked,
neither can it be denied once it has taken place.

Part 3: Q sighting
(Describing the glorious moment in which the quetzal is seen, it having happened or not, and the thoughts therewith)

O glorious flashes of green and red!
Reflecting golden sunlight off your rapidly beating wings!
As I imagined but so much more beautiful!
So much quicker, and elusive than I imagined,
tantalizing glimpses as you flit from branch to branch,
never stopping for longer than a few short moments!

Oh the beauty, to which my eyes were fixed solidly,
not just drawn by the beauty
but because I feared that if I took my eyes off you for a single split second,
I would not see where you moved,
where you showed up next.

Ay it was difficult enough to find you the first time,
and from that second on I refused to let my eyes break from your beauty,
afraid that you would fly away and I would return to searching the trees in vain.

But praises be! That you made yourself known to me, soaring above my head in the clear blue sky,
Not just “showing up” but swooping and dancing in a glorious ballet of light and motion!

I came. I waited. And you showed up.

Having seen the quetzal dozens of times since then, but still always feeling the thrill and surging excitement of that first encounter.


When I left that day I made a promise.
Whether I did or didn't see the quetzal, I'd be back there again, and I keep going back, looking for him every day until I found him or died believing he was there.

And I promised my self that even if I DID see the quetzal, I WOULDN'T tell some amazing story about seeing it, but leave it up to doubt. Instead, I'd LIVE as if I saw it, that is, without anyone knowing whether I saw it that first day or not, I'd be back every morning just to try and get a glimpse of him.

I wouldn't TELL the story, but I'd SHOW it. And if anyone asks... I wouldn't tell them... not because I want to keep it a secret but I want to be back there every morning, pursuing and searching for the quetzal as if I'd never seen him the first time.

The joy is certainly in seeing the quetzal, but perhaps for whom the sighting is a rarity or has not yet happened, the joy is moreso in realizing that if one searches for him, he will show up – maybe not this time, maybe not the next time, but there is value in coming back, again and again to search for him, even if no other time has resulted in a sighting.


Forest Fisk said...

During the week before I was married I was at an NNU chapel. Gene, in all of his coolness simply said (in other words, I think), "have you ever had a moment so intimate with The Quetzal that you shouldn't or wouldn't share the experience with a friend?" And I've been wondering what to think ever sense. My philosophy of life has always been to see The Quetzal, to see Him in all of His beauty and splendor, and show Him off to as many friends as I can... for really, to see The Quetzal at work is the meaning of life.
So, I still wonder: What would I do if I had a perfectly intimate experience with The Quetzal? For I still wonder if His wonder isn't supposed to be shared with everyone.

bboy said...

Hey, Gene's seen the Quetzal too? Yeah, I kinda hoped he had at some point :)

I think you're smellin' what I'm steppin' in.