These excerpts from a beautiful article by Emmy Savage have brought the 
figure of the hermit
thrush more clearly to my immagination than than it has been before. Except 
for the intense last paragraph,
I have resisted other parts, some of which parallel TWL. So it is whittled 
down to a beautiful minimum.

T. S. Eliot wrote The Waste Land in response to World War I and there is 
probably no more bitter or
pessimistic piece of writing in all of literature. In the final sec-tion he 
describes a landscape where there is no water.
Then he asks us to imagine what it would be like if there were water, and 
the sound of water, a spring and a pool
and a Hermit Thrush singing in the pine trees. It is a pretty picture which 
he then destroys in the next line: But there
is no water. Eliot had encountered the Hermit Thrush in Quebec but he could 
just as well have encountered the bird
here in Crestone. The bird's water-dripping song, described in Eliot's notes 
as pure, sweet, and exquisite, can be
heard west of Wagon Wheel on the Spanish Creek trail. The beauty of its song 
is rivaled only by the Wood Thrush's
whose exquisite melodies can still be heard in remote woodlands in the 
eastern United States. According to the Audubon
Society, the Wood Thrush population has declined at a rate of one percent a 
year since the 1960's and I felt very
blessed to hear the song again this spring when I was hiking on the 
Appalachian Trail. It is a song that arrives with
the dawn and accompanies the daylight into the deepest dusk.

... just as we are coming into a deeply wooded place I spot the soft and 
gentle motion of a thrush. Sure enough, when
I get out the glasses, I can see her. I know it is a Hermit Thrush because 
of her large dark eyes and the sliver of white
that circles them. The next moment she is gone and I am so grateful. It is 
rare to ever see these shy elusive birds.

...we pass across a meadow and willow terrace below the lake and hear two 
more Hermit Thrushes singing back
and forth and two mountain Chickadees. Finally, we climb up to the lake 
where we perch on a rock and eat lunch
and I hear another thrush bringing the count to five.

...We walk another quarter of a mile or so and then I begin to spook. This 
is a place so silent, so pure, so high,
and we are so purely alone. I want to stay here forever, never go back and 
at the same time the litany of fears
begins to assert itself: shouldn't hike alone, going down is harder if you 
are tired, clouds are boiling up the valley,
the weather can change in an instant, etc., etc. So without a second look, I 
turn to go back in the same spontaneous
way that I came. And all the fears and reasons are true enough I know but 
none are really close to the truth,
that I am just not ready to fly this close to the sun. Once we are back on 
the trail below the lake, we walk in shadow.
The light has stopped down about seven f-stops, clouds keep coming and soon 
the whole San Luis Valley is
obscured. The San Juans, whose snow caps we observed earlier, have 
disappeared and now there is no bird song
at all, only silence and the sound of water falling.

from "Charged with the Presence of God" in Desert Call, Fall 2013
Emmy Savage is an artist living in Crestone, Colorado and is a member of the 
larger community that attends
services at Nada Carmelite Hermitage. She and her dog, Sarah, regularly hike 
in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains
just east of Crestone. You can view Emmy's art at This 
article first appeared in Tbe Crestone Eagle