On the Border of Complete Sanity: The Black Bird

This appeared in the July 16, 2015 issue of the Sandpoint Reader, for which Sandy Compton is an irregular contributor. 

Has it been hot or is it just me? OK. Damnably hot. Not hellishly hot, yet, but still.

A friend pointed out yesterday that if global warming isn’t real, a great majority of the world’s scientists are idiots. Love that kind of perverse logic. Sort of. Even if it does scare the hell out me. Not run-and-hide scared, but where-are-we-going-with-all-this scared. If I extrapolate out far enough on that curve, we’re all going to die.

Oh, yeah. That’s right. We’re all going to die anyway. That and birth, by whatever means, are the two universally held life experiences of all living things. On this planet, anyway. And global warming probably won’t kill all living things, but it might kill all the mammals. Of which we are a part. A very vulnerable part. Don’t believe me? What will you do when your well runs dry?

If you don’t want to think about such important matters today, you may want to skip over to someone else.


Once upon a time in a dream, I watched a covey of grouse feeding in a fringe of trees at the edge of one of my grandpa’s fields. A huge black bird resembling an oversized raven, came out of the sky and took the hindmost grouse. Again and again, it swooped in, grabbed a grouse and consumed it. But it didn’t really eat it. It just chewed it up.

The predator bird revealed itself as not flesh-and-blood, but, rather, a machine with black metal feathers sporting large triangular teeth, like those of a shark. As each succeeding grouse was taken, the others moved off far enough that they couldn’t hear the bones of their brethren crunching.

On the other side of the thin strip of forest where the grouse were, the land drops into the Blue Creek canyon. In the dream, an eagle came up out of Blue Creek, soaring into the sky on a thermal. It dove on the black bird-machine, raking it with its talons, to no obvious effect, but the bird-machine rose to the attack, and an air battle ensued.

The bird-machine was bigger and faster, but the eagle was more maneuverable, able to pull tight turns and fly in spirals, while the black bird could only make big loops or long arcs. The eagle never retook the offensive, it just stayed out of harm’s way.

In the end, the bird-machine faltered and fell in a straight dive to the ground, where it crashed into a crumpled metal mess. I intuited that it had run out of fuel. The eagle flew on. The grouse kept feeding. The dream ended.


The bird-machine could be our crazy, greed-riddled, image-driven, non-stop, as-long-as-I-get-mine-everything-is-fine culture. It’s chewing up folks and spitting them out.

The grouse could be us. You and me and the guy down the street. We just want to get by and eat our fill. We can’t be bothered with the plight of the last guy or gal or kid in line. Until we are the last one in line, of course. Then, OMG!

So, who’s the eagle?

That could be us, too, if we so choose. Willing to take up the cause of others, able to resist our crazy culture and wise and agile enough to stay out of its way.

Probably, all of us are a combination of the three. If you drive a car or use electricity, you’re arguably part of the machine. And, unless you’re Jesus or Mother Theresa, you likely suffer bouts of complacency regarding the plight of the neighbors.

But, once in a while, we might all be eagles.


This is from Sandy Compton’s book, The Scenic Route: Life on the road between Hope and Paradise.