For the Birds

I’ve been thinking about birds lately. Saw my first wild bald eagle yesterday, banking and soaring over the towers of Seattle – our lofty attempts at taking the sky, their altitude inconsequential to the eagle. Then there was a blue pelican at the waterfront who stood not ten feet away, unafraid in his element, perhaps even aware somewhere in its bird-brain that my only interest was in appreciating its form and the wafting of its delicate chest plumage on the breeze. And then there was the Birdie Sanders incident.

There isn’t a culture or religion I know that doesn’t find great symbolism in birds. Of course we would. Go back to primitive man who didn’t know anything his own senses could tell him, and what little knowledge his elders might have managed to pass on before dying at the ripe age of 35. Put yourself in that mindset, bound to the earth, limited to what you can do with your hands, and it’s no wonder we would find beauty and mystery beyond words in creatures able to so easily enter the sky, the vast crushing expanse above all, with its dependable rolling stars, its capricious storms, the home of warmth, light, spirits and gods.

No wonder they mean so much to us. Taking the dead to one afterlife to another, bringing messages to us from heavenly deities.

Imagine a world where nothing flew –

It’s impossible, of course. Take away flying insects and the feathered dinosaurs who gave rise to birds and still, somewhere along the way,some jumping creature would have been born with a mutation that prolonged it’s jump into a glide, and from there its progeny would have prospered and claimed the sky.

– But imagine it anyway. No flying creatures. If we had evolved in such a world, I wonder, would we have ever thought of leaving the ground ourselves? Would we have ever have dreamed of flight without an example from nature to demonstrate the concept? What would our religion be like, our philosophy, without birds around to teach us we still have so much to strive for.

This makes me thankful for the context we live in, the environment we have been blessed to be part of. We aren’t just part of nature in a physical sense. Our collective intellect has been shaped by the world, and every force and creature therein. There is a unity in creation beyond a simply metaphorical sense. We’re truly, down to the way we think and the stories we tell, connected to, influencing and influenced by everything else rolling through the cosmos.

Blue Heron

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