Wednesday

Nov. 1, 2000

Eagles

by Raymond Carver

Broadcast date: WEDNESDAY, 1 November 2000

Eagles
by Raymond Carver from Where Water Comes Together With Other Water (Vintage Books/Random House)

It was a sixteen inch ling cod that the eagle
dropped near our feet
at the top of Bagley Creek canyon,
at the edge of the green woods.
Puncture marks in the sides of the fish
where the bird gripped with its talons!
That, and a piece torn out of the fish’s back.
Like an old painting recalled,
or an ancient memory coming back,
that eagle flew with the fish from the Strait
of Juan de Fuca up the canyon to where
the woods begin, and we stood watching.
It lost the fish above our heads,
dropped for it, missed it, and soared on
over the valley where wind beats all day.
We watched it keep going until it was
a speck, then gone. I picked up
the fish. That miraculous ling cod.
Came home from the walk and—
why the hell not? —cooked it
lightly in oil and ate it
with boiled potatoes and peas and biscuits.
Over dinner, talking about eagles
and an older, fiercer order of things.

Today is All Saints Day in the western Christian church, commemorating all the saints of the church, both known and unknown. Pope Gregory the Third dedicated a chapel in St. Peter's in Rome on November first of the year 731. In the year 800, November first appeared as All Saints Day on the English calendar, and it was officially set by Pope Gregory the Fourth in 835. In medieval England, the festival honoring this day was known as All Hallows Day, and the day before is still known as Halloween.

Today is the birthday of American playwright and novelist A(lbert) R(amsdell) Gurney, Jr., born in Buffalo, New York (1930). He attended Yale drama school, earned his masters degree in fine arts (1958) and taught humanities and literature at M.I.T. for more than 20 years. When he decided to stop teaching, he said he was "liberated from the oppressive obligations of academic life," and he would now "write plays at an accelerated pace." His subject matter is the upper middle-class, white, Protestant, American family, which he describes so lovingly and carefully that he has been called "the poet laureate of middle-consciousness." His other plays include The Middle Ages (1977), The Dining Room (1982), Love Letters (1989) and Sylvia (1995).

Today is the birthday of Norwegian poet, novelist, and seaman Johan Nordah Brun Grieg, born in Bergen, Norway (1902), a socially-committed writer whose resistance to the Germans during the occupation of Norway made him a hero. He spent time at sea and wrote an accurate and vivid portrayal of sailing life in The Ship Sails On. He loved Norway passionately, and wrote Norway in our Hearts in 1929. He was fascinated with writers like Keats, Shelley and Byron, who had died young, and wrote about them in The Young Dead Ones (1932). When Norway was occupied by German troops, he escaped to Britain, and his war poems and radio talks became the leading voice of free Norway. He was killed in an Allied bombing raid over Berlin in 1943.

It is the birthday of American novelist, poet, and journalist Stephen Crane, born in Newark, New Jersey (1871). He didn't stay in college long, leaving for New York City to become a freelance writer. He led a bohemian life there, and explored the slums of the Bowery, which inspired his first novel, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (1893), about an abused girl from the slums who became a prostitute. When he was 22, he wrote his most famous novel, The Red Badge of Courage, about the bloodshed and battlefields experienced by a new Civil War recruit—all written accurately by an author who had never seen war. The book earned him less than $100. He became a war correspondent for the Hearst newspapers. He died at 28 of tuberculosis.

It is the birthday of American architect James Renwick, Jr., born in New York City (1818). His wonderful grasp of the true Gothic style led to many commissions for churches, including St. Patrick's Cathedral. He planned the main building of the Smithsonian Institution, the Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C., and the original structure for Vassar College in Poughkeepsie.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

 









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