The Eagle & The Oak
A story of our place
One summer afternoon an eagle landed in the highest branches of a great and mighty oak tree in the forest. The eagle started to look around to see what there was to see, and maybe to eat. It started to talk to itself.
“I am the greatest part of creation. Birds are much greater than other creatures because they can fly and are not bound to the earth. I am the greatest of the birds, the king of birds, as I can fly the highest and see the furthest. I have the mightiest wings and am the strongest of birds. I have been revered in folklore and associated with the gods of many beliefs. There is none as great as me!”
As the eagle was contemplating the things he had said and was beginning to feel very proud, he heard a voice that he was not expecting. “You are not the greatest part of creation. I am.”
“Who said that?” asked the eagle
“It was me” the voice said “the oak upon which you sit.”
“The oak? The tree I sit upon thinks it is a greater part of creation than me, the mighty eagle, king of birds!?”
“You may be the king of birds” the oak said “but I am the king of trees, who has also been revered in folklore and associated with the gods of many beliefs. There is none as great as me”
“None as great as you?” exclaimed the eagle “but you are bound to the earth, not only can you not fly, but you cannot even move, you are a tree, rooted to the spot, how can you think yourself greater than me?”
“My roots are the deepest of all the tree roots, I have as many roots as I have branches, and you can see how great a spread of branches I have” said the oak “and without my deep strong roots you would not be able to land upon me, or build a nest within me, nor be protected from the weather. You shy away from the strong wind, hiding in crags or my thick branches, I stand strong against the storm and keep you safe. Trees also create oxygen, which you creatures need to breath to live. I am the greatest part of creation.”
“But you cannot even see” said the eagle “I can see the furthest of all creatures, and vision has been held important to many of the people of the earth. I am given as a symbol of vision. The Christians gave me as the symbol of their Apostle John, the beloved disciple of Christ, the man of visions. I am given as the strength of the word of God flying out across the land, this is why the Christians carve my image to rest their books upon at the front of their churches.”
“Your image is indeed seen at the front of churches, but that image is made from oak, traditionally. Your image can only be seen because of me, the wood from which it is made. I may not be able to see, but I am a symbol of wisdom. Many believe that the term ‘Druid’, the wise men of the ancient faith of these lands, derives from my name – ‘Oak Wisdom’. Many of the early Christians, such as Columba and Brigid, created their spiritual centres in groves of oak trees as I am a sacred tree to them. Wisdom is greater than vision. Therefore I am the greatest part of creation.”
The eagle stopped to think about what the oak had said and was about to speak to refute the claim of the oak as the greatest part of creation when a third voice was heard by both the eagle and the oak.
“What are you two arguing about?” the voice said
“We are debating” said the eagle “as to who is the greatest part of creation. The oak, who claims to be king of the trees and the symbol of wisdom, or me, the eagle, king of the birds and the symbol of vision and the word of God. Who are you?”
“How can you argue over such things? You are both created to be different, both created to have your own strengths to be the best version of your selves. What good can come from comparing yourselves to each other when you are both supposed to be different from each other?”
The eagle was about to speak to argue against the voice, when the oak stopped him by shaking the branches upon which he sat.
“In my wisdom I can see that you are also wise” the oak said “we could argue our differences all day and all night and we would not come to a conclusion of which of us is the greatest part of creation, as we are so different from one another. The eagle is the greatest at being an eagle and oaks are the greatest at being oaks.”
The eagle opened his beak again to speak, but then closed it in thought. After a few moments of silence the eagle spoke “who are you who speaks such wisdom and knows our differences so well?”
“I am the one who created you both in the first place, and all other parts of creation. When I looked at all of the creation which I made I saw that it was all very good. It was very good because everything was different and was designed for each part to work in coordination with all other parts to create the sustaining eco system. Trouble comes when different parts of my creation argue with other parts over their differences and which is greater. None is greater, as all are deliberately created to be themselves and play their part. All each one has to do is be the best version of who they are created to be, and play their part for the whole to work together.”
The eagle and the oak did not speak for some time. Then the eagle spread its wings ready to take off. “Thank you mighty oak for all that you are and all that you give me and all other creatures. I could not be the best me without you.”
As the eagle lifted itself into the air on its mighty wings the oak spoke “thank you great eagle for all that you are, and for all that you give to the earth. I could not be the best me without you.”
The eagle flew high up into the sky, and the oak stood strong in the earth. Each were changed by the encounter that day, but not because they had decided who was the greatest part of creation, but because they had discovered that creation was great because of who they were in themselves, and with each other.