Winged wonders

July 13, 2013 

Earth-bound peoples, since their earliest days, have sought to see their futures and their fortunes in birds. Consider Minerva’s owl of wisdom, predictor of good fortune; in the eyes of the Roman legions, it was an eagle riding atop a banner that assured success.

And birds have guided in other ways. Early navigation depended upon avian life. Vikings and Norsemen wisely reasoned that the existence of the New World was assured by following their compasses to join the annual east-west migrations of several species of long-range birds. Columbus knew he was nearing land when he spotted land birds and followed their path.

Who has not found themselves a little jealous of those masters of the heavens, those birds that flash their silvered wings to lift themselves high in silent freedom, released from their earthly confines to rise as weightless as a yearning into the blue vaults of a summer sky.

Each bird has evolved to lift itself by a different beat. There’s the goose or duck rowing purposefully though the air and the fish-hawk hanging in the skies before folding its wings in a death-defying plunge deep into the waters. There’s the slow, effortless soaring of a vulture and the darting dance of the hummingbird, flitting from blossom to fragrant blossom. Perhaps the most graceful are the swallows, ballerinas of the air, pirouetting on wings. And perhaps the most beautiful are the terns, buoyant in flight, long narrow wings and forked tails, sharp bill pointed downward, as if mounted on the shaft of an arrow.

All of them we flightless watch and dream a soaring dream.

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