The Immense Journey by Loren Eiseley
This contemplative and sometimes dreamlike book, a combination of nature writing, spirituality, and science writing, was first published in 1946. It is the work of Loren Eiseley, an anthropologist with an extensive career. Eiseley did a great deal of fieldwork, as can be expected, and held several academic posts, including head of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. I read the 1957 edition published by Random House.
Eiseley has a great ability of starting each chapter with a compelling statement. Here are three examples:
“I am middle-aged now, but in the autumn I always seek for it again hopefully” (p. 195).
“If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water” (p. 15).
“Today, as never before, the sky is menacing” (p. 143).
In “The Bird and the Machine,” definitely my favorite, Eiseley describes capturing a sparrow hawk: “a fine young male in the prime of life” (p. 189). The hawk is one of a pair, but due to a violent struggle between Eiseley and the birds, he is not able to capture the female. Eiseley captures the bird for a zoo, a task he is charged with and explains as “one of those reciprocal matters in which science involves itself” (p. 186). The day following the capture, Eiseley decides to take a look at the bird in the box. He writes, “I could feel his heart pound under the feathers but he only looked beyond me and up” (p. 191).
Eiseley makes a decision, after noticing how the hawk is gazing into the sky, that he will release him. He does so and shortly after hears a commotion as the hawk joins his companion in cries of happiness. The female was likely waiting for her mate in the shadows of a tree throughout the night. The way this event is described is magical and was like a treasure after toughing it out in the middle of the book. It really makes you think about keeping birds in cages and pulling them out of their natural habitat for our pleasure and entertainment.