On grouseness

Grouse are “adapted” not only to an environment, but also to being grouse. This has been overlooked in most current researches. There is something remarkably grouse-like in their overall pattern and behaviour. They seem to know that they are grouse; to be content with that identity; willing to live, and also to die, in the condition of grouseness. Foragers of the wild will have noticed that they taste like grouse, too.

One may make no sense whatever if one takes them to be something else. They will persist in their grouse-like partialities, and in point of fact will remain distinctly, univocally, unambiguously, grouse — even if we try to persuade them that they are, say, cockatoos.

Some other creature might invade their peculiar ecological niche; might even do so successfully. The grouse will respond to that invasion, implacably, as grouse. They will, should it come to that, go down as grouse. They will under no circumstance attempt to transform or metamorphose themselves in response to such a crisis. They will not even consider such a proposition. It would be strictly fight or flight, on grouse terms.

Should they flee, it will be to the sort of territory they find agreeable to themselves, as grouse. They will even go in search of such territory. But suppose they cannot find a suitable new abode, they would frankly rather starve than cease to be grouse. Indeed, contra Darwin, they are totally opposed to adaptation, and to liberalism of any other sort. (This is among the reasons I admire them.)

They believe in their gods; they recognize their angels. More: they trust them. Asked to evolve some new characteristic, by any other authority, they will ignore the instruction. They could never think of such a thing, themselves. More likely, such a development might occur to the grouse archangel (who would report it upward); or be discussed among the lesser grouse angels, assigned by God to look out for grouse interests on the metaphysical plane, and therefore always gravely concerned with correctly interpreting the details: the signs of the times from a grouse point-of-view

Yet even in such a case, the new character, or species, would emerge from the underlying grouseness of these creatures, and appear as an extension of the grouse repertoire. It would be all of a piece with the grouse ontology; with the beingness of grouse. For in this, as in all other angelic orders, operating within the dance of time, there is consistent, creative adherence to a living tradition.

And in this case, to the grouse tradition.


Now, while I may surmise all this, in my contemplation of grouseness, I must not be reckless. I must tell gentle reader, quite plainly, that I am devoid of insights into how the angelic and creaturely orders interact, beyond the fact that they do. Nor can I have much to say on the hierarchical order of the grouse angels, abstracted in themselves. In this world we chiefly discern effects, seldom causes. These latter we may often not even detect, except in the most general way, through our taxonomic studies.

That there is indeed some kind of archangel, who looks out for the grouse order at large, from prairie chickens in the south to ptarmigans in the far north of our northern hemisphere, is evident not only to sight and outward experience but more recently to studies in the sequences of mitochondrial DNA. This much is obvious.

Somewhere in the middle we have dusky grouse, ruffed grouse, sooty grouse, hazel grouse, spruce grouse, willow grouse, sage grouse, and so forth. And let me mention my Gaelic favourite of all grouse: the large, crow-black, but red chevron-browed, ground-dwelling, forest-loving, western Capercaillie — currently fighting for his life among the Scottish pines. A delicious bird, as I am given to understand.

From a general survey, we might reasonably infer the existence, on a planetary scale, of well over a hundred, perhaps two hundred specific grouse angels in the ranks beneath the grouse archangel; but that is to consider the matter too narrowly. There are the spirits of grouse past, and grouse future, as well as those now present; and I should think the angelic hierarchy extends downwards to the feudal lower angels who mind the innumerable tribes and families of each grouse species, and their respective haunts — interacting, on a practical level, with each genius loci, minding the terrain.

That the angels may sometimes clash among themselves, we may plausibly suppose; and I have sometimes suspected this to be the explanation of apparent evil in Nature herself: that the Devil despises grouse as he despises us and all the rest of Creation, and that he is doing his best to infiltrate the cosmic order at every available point: to “get at” the grouse as he so evidently tries to get at us. In some mysterious way our eldest ancestor opened the door to him, and in the course of doing so exposed the grouse also to his ministrations. This being our fault, our most grievous fault.

Notwithstanding, there would seem to be a background, and finally, an overriding harmony, which having been disturbed, is always restored, and often, that right soon.

But here things become impenetrably complicated. For angels come and go, from what we can follow of angelology. They, as we, are created, and may be reassigned. When, ultimately, God requires a new species, as part of his unfolding Plan, I should think a new messenger angel is created or assigned to assume the divine “form” of that species.

(William Blake is quite good on this.)


Now, all the above is from my private reflections on grouseness, only; my “theory” or “doctrine” of grouseness, as it were; and may at first seem incompatible with what is now taught in the biology departments. So be it; I think the balance of the evidence is on my side.