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So a preacher, a murderer, and an artist go down the Natchez Trace…

And from there we get three views of the same still moment, the beauty of three men with three purposes stopped by the presence of one snowy heron.  Until, of course, the bird-watcher Audubon shoots the heron so that he can attempt to draw it more precisely.


James Murrell, the outlaw who would have murdered the preacher but is instead left behind by the other two men after the killing of the bird, thinks, “he was proud of the dispersal, as if he had done it, as if he had always known that three men in simply being together and doing a thing can, by their obstinacy, take the pride out of one another.”


Audubon, the bird-watching, bird-killing artist, thinks:  “He knew that even the sight of the heron which surely he alone had appreciated, had not been all his belonging, and that never could any vision, even any simple sight, belong to him or to any man.  He knew the best he could make would be, after it was apart from his hand, a dead thing and not a live thing, never the essence, only the sum of the parts; and that it would always meet with a stranger’s  sight, and never be one with the beauty in any other man’s head in the world.”


And from Lorenzo Dow, the itinerant preacher, we get this:  “He could understand God’s giving Separateness first and then giving Love to follow and heal in its wonder; but God had reversed this, and given Love first and then Separateness, as thought it did not matter to Him which came first.  Perhaps it was that God never counted the moments of Time; Lorenzo did that, among his tasks of love.  Time did not occur to God.  Therefore—did He even know of it?  How to explain Time and Separateness back to God, Who had never thought of them, Who could let the whole world come to grief in a scattering moment?”


One moment, three experiences.  And that’s what this story is about.