Most birds don’t bother to learn more than the simplest fundamentals of flight – how to fly from bluff to sea, food to tree and back again. Along the way they might pass by other flocks doing similar birdly duties - scanning open meadows for dots of food, shiny threads or small sticks to upgrade their treetop homes, all while keeping within proven flight paths and formations. These birds have learned well the act of being “a bird,” and for all their days they will fly to meet that definition within the best of their abilities. The hummingbird will hum, the crow will cackle and the sparrow will chirp. But once in a while we hear a bird sing for no other reason it would seem than to cheer us up. Once in a while a bird will fall out of formation to ride an updraft and show us how he can turn open air into a ballroom dance floor for no other reason than to dance. Once in a while we see a bird that seems to understand being “a bird” is, from wing to tip, an unlimited idea of freedom.
Once there was a songbird who would sit a top her apple tree and sing her song. Her feathers were a little brighter than other songbirds and her song would always turn heads. “Look down there,” a goose would say to the flock “it looks like a songbird but she doesn’t sing their song”. She sang not because she was a bird, but because she found her own song in her heart. One day her song carried to a far off redwood where a great bald eagle had taken residence. The eagle had heard a number of songbirds in his days, but the score that came across the wind that morning stirred him like no other had before. As the hummingbird hums and the crow cackles, so is the eagle concerned with eagle-like business. However, unlike all other birds in the sky, the eagles’ business is to do everything with majesty and pride. No eagle goes unnoticed as he gracefully cuts jet streams through the midday sun or silhouettes himself against a harvest moon, nor does he intent to. So, it should go without saying that something like a song dancing through the trees from a far away songbird should draw no more than a glancing ear from a creature with such a noble purpose. But this particular eagle, like the songbird who sang a different tune, found himself outside the margins of what defined his own kind. And so, high in his purchase above the forest canopy, the eagle stretched his wings to the horizon, stiffened the silver feathers atop his head and soared towards his noblest of purposes.
Together, the songbird and the eagle built a great nest lined with the finest down feathers, the freshest of forest kindling and only the best of natures’ bounty. And there, nestled in their redwood overlooking a bowling green, they tended to their two chicks. The eagle would teach them to hold their head high and keep the eagle majesty in their heart. The songbird would teach them to open their eyes to nature around them, see the song inside all living things and help them find the voice to sing it themselves. The chicks learned that, while a birds duty is to fly, their calling is to sing. As the chicks grew they would draw attention from flocks flying across their open field on migration. “Look at how they dart through the air, spiraling skyward with no fear of stalling,” they would cheer to one another. And for a brief moment the flocks overhead shared an understanding of what they were witnessing and flew a little higher than their formation required. For years they grew together as a family, sharing the highest of highs and learning to deal with the lowest of lows. Nothing, it seemed, could ruffle the majesty from their feathers nor dull the pitch of their song.
One might find it a sad turn in the story to lean that the great nest which overlooked a bowling green was thrown down from its redwood foundation one summer. Passing flocks, which had come to look forward to their brief aerial view of the family over the years, were saddened to see the open meadow overgrown and quiet. No longer was the morning fog carved into tapestries by spiraling wing trails. No longer could the songbirds’ melodies be heard from the skies above. The meadow had been reclaimed and overrun by nature, sparing only the fallen nest which had been left at the foot of its redwood, abandoned and forgotten. And sad it was to the casual onlooker, the passerby who saw only the brick and mortar of the nest. What a shame it was to the bird that values such bird-like things as shiny thread and down-lined twigs, the highest of redwoods and the widest of meadows in which to fly. And what a shame it would have been if this noble family had let that storm rock their foundation.
However, unlike the trees and the grass that surrounded the family, no storm could sway the quality of their character. No storm could touch the nest that the songbird had built in her chick’s hearts, their true understanding of ‘home’. What other birds did not recognize was that they carried that great redwood with them in their heart, a tall proud ideal of how high one must perch to see the farthest goals in life. The family rose from that patch of land like a phoenix rising from a pile of ashes, intact and reborn. Their path led them to different lands, new learning grounds and even a stony stream brook for which they could practice their ever evolving song. And, while they never took their surroundings for granted, they knew that no plot of land or towering tree would replace the comfort they felt from knowing they were a family.
Many birds are taught to look just beyond their beak to reach their goals, not to loose sight of their mission from bluff to sea, food to tree and back again. But they rarely take the time to enjoy the freedom their wings afford them. Some birds will leave their nest to find their own song and become disheartened by the distance and effort it takes to seek it out. It takes the pride and determination of an eagle along with the artistry and understanding of a songbird to truly make the most of life. We are masters of the sky and only when we look down do we remember we are suppose to fly lower. The air gets thin, the wind gets cold, but no bird flies too high if he soars with his own wings. And no bird is ever truly lost if he remembers that; from wing to tip, we are all the essence of flight...the definition of freedom.