The saddest tale

“Are you a storyteller, Thomas Covenant?”
Absently he replied, “I was, once.”
“And you gave it up? Ah, that is as sad a tale in three words as any you might have told me. But a life without a tale is like a sea without salt. How do you live?”
… Unconsciously, he clenched his fist over his ring. “I live.”
“Another?” Foamfollower returned. “In two words, a story sadder than the first. Say no more — with one word you will make me weep.”
― Stephen R. Donaldson

fairy thorn curbar

One of the saddest stories I was ever told was about the last tree. I was very small, but it made me cry and I have never forgotten the dying branches of the very last tree in its fenced and guarded little island of grass and the last rabbit that shared its final days.

The story shared the memories of the tree, of how birds and butterflies would come, how children would play… and of the men with axes and poisoned air. The rabbit was too young to remember more than one tree being in the world. More than one rabbit. I don’t remember the words just the pictures that formed as the story was told and how the rabbit curled up and died as the tree withered and became no more than a wooden monument to a once-upon-a-time beauty. It was a lonely story…and a heartbreaking one to tell a child. But it served its purpose. I have never been able to take the life  and beauty of nature for granted.

Were I to choose one thing from nature that epitomises  for me the grandeur and grace of the world, it would be the great birds. I am lucky, where I live the red kites, once extinct in England and almost extinct throughout Britain, have been reintroduced and now thrive. They are glorious birds with beautifully marked backs and a wingspan wider than I am tall. Every day I see them soaring overhead and every day they take my breath away and remind me of beauty.

Red Kite

Red Kite image: Sue Vincent

I see buzzards regularly, kestrels and hawks… even a never-to-be-forgotten marsh harrier. And once, just once, I saw golden eagles.

On a driving job that took me through the wild heart of the north, I took an impulse turn down a little lane I had passed many times. Why I chose to so so on that day, I will never know, but in the middle of the lane, a pair of golden eagles were dining on a carcass.

I stopped the van and barely dared to breathe. Two golden heads were raised, two pairs of amber eyes considered the intruder… then they rose, unhurried, and flew away. The whole encounter took mere seconds that seemed to last a lifetime… and the memory surely will. A wingspan of nearly eight feet and their mastery of the winds makes them a majestic sight. It was a moment of utter delight, awe and privilege to share the sun with these great and beautiful creatures.

It was, therefore, with a sadness as complete as remembered joy that I read today that the last golden eagle in England is feared dead.

The last golden eagle.

Golden eagle. Image: pinthiscars.com

The news was relayed by birdwatcher Alan Tilmouth, who said, “We’ll wake tomorrow to a country less wild than before, nature one step further from us, one step closer to simply being a shadow of itself.” The eagle had flown above Haweswater for around fifteen years. These birds mate for life and his mate died in 2004… since then he has flown alone. Every spring he has displayed, the aerial mating flight a thing of wonder for those lucky enough to witness it. This spring, he has not reappeared in the Cumbrian skies. It matters little that there are others worldwide. That over the border into Scotland, far up in the north, there are others… a few others….

Even now, the Scottish birds are threatened by an impoverished habitat, by illegal poisoning and the theft of their eggs by collectors.

The last golden eagle.

It need not be so.Man is part of the natural world, whether or not he remembers it. There can be harmony and co-existence between species… the natural balance and the thread of life can weave new stories if we choose.

I feel like the child I once was again, listening to the end of the story and again the tears come. Not just for the loss of this one lonely bird, but for all the children to come who will not look up in wonder at vast wings spread against a blue sky… and for all the creatures and habitats suffering for the need and greed of Man.

asher svidensky

Harmony – Mongolian eagle-huntress. Image by Asher Svidensky

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at scvincent.com and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email: findme@scvincent.com.
This entry was posted in Birds, earth, Life, Photography, wildlife and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

61 Responses to The saddest tale

  1. I fear there will be a lot of “last ofs” before our lives are done. There ARE golden eagles elsewhere. I saw a pair of them in the Golan in the mid 1980s and I understand there are still some nesting pairs there. I hope they stay safe.

    We almost killed off the American (Bald) Eagles, but they have come back and you can see them all over the country, now. They have thrived. We can save them. At least some of them.

    Like

    • Sue Vincent says:

      There are still many Golden Eagles elsewhere. Both our white tailed eagle and my red kites were allowed to become all but extinct here and have been reintroduced. The kites have thrived. I just cannot see why we allow a long-known problem to get so much worse.

      Like

  2. Sha'Tara says:

    I remember reading “The One Tree.” I just commented on another blog that man is a destructive creature with a soul so black it makes the Devil cringe. It’s in the creature’s programming to destroy. It’s what it does best; what it enjoys most doing. Whether is violent sports, war, abuse, extortion, oppression, hunting, sport fishing, as long as it destroys, hurts, causes fear and pain, man is happy.

    Like

    • Sue Vincent says:

      I do not think that is the whole truth. Certainly the society we have created is responsible for much darkness and destruction. But humankind is also capable of compassion, tenderness, generosity and hope. It is too simple to cast a blanket judgement. We can learn and we have a choice in who we are… each of us. Many choose to live and work in harmony with their fellow man and the earth. Maybe the shadows on the heart of Man are what allow us to make a conscious choice to change.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sha'Tara says:

        There are two points here. One, there’s “humankind” as a species – a deadly predator whose planetary depredation are there for all to see. Then there are individuals who indeed have it within themselves, as individuals, to change, i.e., to turn from the destructive spirit of humankind. I deliberately use a blanket statement that humankind, as a species, is utterly depraved and evil. It enjoys violence and destruction. It is a completely accurate statement based on the best available information and observation. Quote from the movie, “Holy Man” – “Why do we yawn at creation and cheer at destruction?” Too often, when certain individuals demonstrate tenderness, generosity, compassion and hope or self-sacrifice, that is noticed exactly because as a species man tends to demonstrate blatantly opposite choices. If the quoted virtues were the norm, they wouldn’t need mentioning. The man-induced current conditions of the planet and expansion of violent, bloody conflict only proves the point regarding man’s predilection to destruction and penchant for dealing in death. Man’s demise (or near demise) will put a “case closed” on the matter soon enough. The sad thing is, while there are many willing to make excuses for man’s destructive ways, they remain completely inexcusable.

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        • Sue Vincent says:

          The depredations of Man are neither excusable nor defensible. However, while I cannot but agree that many of our actions have, both currently and historically been reprehensible, that we, as a species, are ‘utterly depraved and evil’ I do not accept. The vast majority of people are decent, caring and kind individuals… and a collective is made up of individuals, even if power is held by only a few.
          I would not condemn a child for squashing a spider, as a small child knows no better. I would teach it instead to understand that such a life must be respected and valued as much as any other and I hope the child would learn as it grows. Mankind is a very young species… I hope that we too are learning.

          Like

  3. I think ‘gone’ will become an even more common word than it is.

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  4. stevetanham says:

    Reblogged this on stevetanham and commented:
    As we approach our weekend workshop of ancient tales, some sobering thoughts from Sue…

    Like

  5. Your story about nature is very touching and true, but I’m afraid man will go on destroying it because of money! Thank you very much also for your pictures. Best regards Martina

    Like

    • Sue Vincent says:

      I think there is a growing awareness of the necessity for preserving the whole of Nature, though sadly, I fear you are right about the greed for profit taking precedence in many cases, Martina.

      Like

  6. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    Sue Vincent with a very poignant post about the last of species that are disappearing from our world far too rapidly because of our actions. This includes the last Golden Eagle to leave our English skies..

    Like

  7. olganm says:

    I also heard the news. So sad indeed. Thanks, Sue, for sharing your thoughts and your memories

    Like

  8. Very sad. When will we take a moment to stop and think about the wonderful creatures that share our world? It often seems to little to late. 😦

    Like

  9. Reblogged this on Judith Barrow and commented:
    A thoughtful post from Sue that should make everyone on this planet of ours stop and think

    Liked by 1 person

  10. jenanita01 says:

    so very sad, but so much of this planet gets sadder every day. I will never understand why this must be so.

    Like

  11. Mary Smith says:

    I hadn’t heard about the last golden eagle in England – that’s desperately sad. I was lucky enough to see one on Arran a couple of weeks ago. I’m also lucky to live very near a pair of breeding ospreys, which last year fledged three young.
    I agree red kites look magnificent in flight. We have so many round where I live thanks to a breeding and release programme backed by a feeding programme which has gone on for years that I’m becoming a bit ambivalent about them. I have friends who are sheep farmers…

    Like

    • Sue Vincent says:

      I don’t think I have ever seen an osprey… one more reason ( as if I needed one) to get up your way, Mary 🙂
      The poor kites get such a bad press. They are scavengers, rather than hunters, thriving on roadkill and discarded human food waste, which is why they do so well in cites. They tend not to like live prey… and even with carcasses, usually have to wait for the crows to open the flesh as their beaks aren’t up to it.
      On the other hand,they are not above stealing laundry and soft toys to line their nests.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mary Smith says:

        ‘Our’ osprey came originally from Wales and settled here. The female didn’t return the following year but a young female arrived and they got together. I think this is her third year and she’s sitting on eggs now though we won’t know how many until the chicks are hatched. The nest is very close to Threave Castle and this year a peregrine falcon seems to have taken up residence there but I’ve only managed to see it once.

        Like

        • Sue Vincent says:

          Our kites did too… though that was a planned reintroduction. We can only hope an eagle or two will fly south in search of a territory.
          We have so many kites, buzzards and kestrels round here it is rare to go for a walk without seeing one at least.

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  12. This isn’t just ‘sad’, it’s heartbreaking and worrisome.

    Like

  13. This is a beautiful and sad post Sue! Humans has made the life of some animals not easy and that’s not right it is very sad! Yesterday I honored a wonderful animal that is subject and victim of human threats. To celebrate Save The Elephant Day I painted a watercolor that shows an elephant with a worried look in his eye I wanted my drawing to speak for him and make us think about his uncertain future, but also shows that he is there with his magnificence as creature of this world ready to run free and happy any day of the year without worries…

    https://yesterdayafter.com/2016/04/16/save-the-elephant-day/

    Thank you Sue for your thoughtful post! ❤

    Carolina

    Like

  14. When will we ever learn ? I didn’t know of the plight of the golden eagle. Very sad, in so many important ways. That last picture is fascinating. Thanks for sharing, Sue.

    Like

  15. Jean Reiland says:

    In the states we have wildlife advocates fighting very hard to preserve our wildlife. Here in Jackson no one gets away with delisting protected species, or increased hunting of anything without serious opposition from some very serious people.

    Like

  16. lizannelloyd says:

    This made me think of The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.

    Like

  17. adeleulnais says:

    Oh no, I`m crying for him, the last golden eagle in England. This is so very bad, we have duty to keep and care for the land and it`s inhabitants. Sometimes I really don`t like humans.

    Like

  18. Mick Canning says:

    It is sad news. One more to the long list…

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  19. The story of the last tree sounds heartbreaking – it makes me want to cry as an adult…as does the news of your eagles. That’s sad news for England and the planet, Sue. We have eagles here and I’ll take special note of them today.

    Like

  20. Bookwraiths says:

    Simply horrible and very depressing. The only thing which will stop this accelerated destruction of the planet is a change within the hearts of people. Unfortunately, they are too busy being entertained on death and destruction to have that occur. At least, when I read news like this, the cynic in me whispers that it is so. 😦

    Like

    • Sue Vincent says:

      I think most people do care, but feel there is little we can do as individuals. Those with the money and power do less than they could…because their focus is on amassing more of both.

      Like

  21. dgkaye says:

    Poignant post Sue. Sometimes I just wonder if God sits back and watches so much of what he has given us get ruined by greed, ignorance, and selfishness, and let’s nature take its wrath on the world in return. ❤

    Like

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  24. Beautifully put although so sad.

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