“Once You Have Tasted Flight…”

Saturday, June 4, 2011

“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.” –Leonardo da Vinci

Sometimes I just don’t feel like I fit in anywhere. And that’s okay. I know to God, I fit into this world perfectly. I just wish He’d tell me how sometimes. ; ) But, as Scripture says, we are all wanderers on this planet…

Part of the wandering is exhilarating… For example, I love being outside and appreciating nature… But nature’s not even a comfortable fit on certain days, is it? Because nature is where the gnats and the flies and the mosquitoes and the wasps and the ticks wander too. And sometimes you get bitten. Or stung. Or dug into for blood-sucking, or just simply bothered to the nth degree. I suppose to the pests, we humans fit right in extremely well on this planet, so I guess it just depends on your perspective.

Lately, watching a family of crows congregate every evening for dinner in the backyard has taught me lessons of beauty. One little crow (I’ll name her “Gratzia,” with an explanation later) in particular has reminded me of the rare gem of never giving up, along with the priceless treasure of being true to who you are in this crazy world.

You may have already read my crow entry from May 10, 2011, titled “Go With Your Instincts.” Well, I never got back to explaining what happened…

For at least two years now, crows have lived in a huge elm tree a couple houses down. And these crows have become official neighbors. They know when I normally share food with them and the other birds and the squirrels, and sometimes they “caw” to remind me. And when I enter the backyard to feed them, they treat me like a rock star, with what sounds like wild cawing applause. It gets a little humorous. I don’t feed them much, just some bread and a few leftover seeds my mom’s birds wouldn’t eat. I started doing this one winter when it snowed; I figure the world would be a better place if we’d all help those within our reach to help – and, yes, including wildlife.

Well, on that 10th day of March, I heard a different kind of cawing. It sounded like some sort of call for help. And then I noticed something a bit odd. There was one smaller crow (still big, but smaller than the others) that didn’t seem able to fly. He flapped his wings, but went nowhere. And when the other birds were down eating, he ran over to them with an open beak and cried, begging them to feed him … but they ignored him completely.

Watching this was heartbreaking. I went out with a dish of water and extra food and tried to get as near to him as possible, not wanting to frighten this baby bird. Later, I watched him try to climb the fence and some bushes, but he just couldn’t do it. Which made me wonder how he had gotten there in the first place… It seemed like those crows knew I would help their little one… (And I didn’t even know there were any babies, as those babies were pretty big.)

After some quick prayer and research, I connected with a local wildlife rescue team, and one of their members, Connie, happened to live one neighborhood over from us, and got there quickly – with a net and a carrier. (The picture is of Connie holding Frankie.) Within minutes, she had rescued him, and the other crows flew away. They hadn’t made a sound when Frankie was caught; they just watched. Connie told me that crows make the best bird parents – but that if there’s an injured baby or one that can’t fly, they will ignore it… (Another part of nature I don’t like…) She showed me places on Frankie’s wings that were white, a sign of nutritional deficiency … in other words, he was starving… (As an update, Frankie was all set to go into rehab with some other baby crows, but he got an infection in his foot and had to go to the vet instead; after being on antibiotics, he’s on his way to a full recovery, and everyone expects him to fly again. When that happens, they will let him and the other rehabbing babies back into the wild, their home. )

About a week or two later, I started hearing a different kind of caw – kind of like Frankie’s. It was a baby caw sound. When I looked out the window, I saw a bird of about Frankie’s size, but with so much white on the wings that it looked like someone had spilled paint on her… She, too, was starving… But she could fly. (I call her a “she” not knowing one way or the other, but since I named the other bird after Frank Sinatra, for his blue eyes – baby crows have blue eyes – I thought I’d call this one “she,” and now call her “Gratzia.” Growing up, I had a friend from dance school. She was Italian and told me her parents named her that because they were grateful. Well, this little bird eventually seemed grateful for her daily bread, and I was grateful to God for taking care of her, having prayed that He would either make those parents feed her, or help her learn how to feed herself. But I’m getting ahead of the story…)

After contacting Connie again, she told me that if the bird was starving, she’d eventually get so weak that she’d be unable to fly – and that that’s when she could be caught. So I told the neighbors about her, just in case she ended up in their yard.

But every day, this little one returned with her parents and another sibling. And each day, they ignored her. You just wanted to run out and take care of her. It was all so nerve-wracking wondering if that poor bird was going to just stop flying someday, and wondering if she was in pain from starvation… She was a determined little bird that wouldn’t give up though.

And one day I saw something very tender. Just she and (I’m guessing) her mother sat facing each other on top of the neighbor’s garage right next to us. Gratzia the bird was crying, holding her beak open for food. The mother, instead of flying away, started preening her little baby. She didn’t feed her, but she gently pulled on some feathers around her face, almost like kisses… And they just sat there for a while together.

Each new day, they were back. And each new day, Gratzia became a little bolder. She hopped down from the fence to join her family, but soon started to look for her own food. And while looking, she’d stop to play with a pinecone, picking one up and tossing it with her beak, then running over to it again. She’d duck if she saw another bird fly overhead. And as she learned to find worms, she’d jump back, a little startled at the wriggly things.

As of today, she seems to be doing fine. I still watch them from the kitchen window. They all hang out together as a family, but she often goes off to the side by herself, hunting worms as the others eat bread. So, she and Frankie had good parents after all. Getting help for one, and teaching the other how to live in this world.

And that’s kind of what God does with us. He doesn’t always intervene directly, but He gives us help when we need it, sometimes in ways that seem disjointed or don’t make sense. And He always teaches us how to live and navigate on Planet Earth, if we want to learn.

But it seems we have to really want to first. We have to be hungry to receive. To be persistent and never give up, just like Gratzia the crow. And we have to be ourselves, no matter if we feel like we fit in or not. Because the truth is, we do; otherwise, we wouldn’t be here, and that’s just good sense. So be yourself no matter what. Stop and play with pine cones for a while. Jump back when you run into a worm. And be fierce about living. Live on purpose. Live because you know you have the possibility to fly. Maybe not with wings, but with determination. And once you know, even a little bit, what that kind of flying is like, you won’t want to settle for anything less.

I think that maybe because Gratzia knew she could fly, there was no way she was going down like her brother Frankie. She knew what it was like to soar, and she wasn’t going to give up without a fight to live.

I love this quote by Leonardo da Vinci: “Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”

If only we would all have that kind of determination… Maybe something in your world was thrown off kilter… Maybe you lost your job, or your house … or a loved one… Or maybe the one dream you’ve always had was shattered in an instant… Or maybe rejection or ridicule followed you around again… Whatever it is, tomorrow really is a new day. And one new day leads to the next, and the next, and the next … until you finally have new perspective and new chances to try again, and/or to move forward, away from negativity, away from what’s holding you back.

Through hunger, we learn how survive. And as we survive, we learn what to appreciate along the way. And we grow more compassionate toward those going through the same thing. We also learn how to appreciate us… We learn that there is good in us — that God is in us, as we are created in His image. So if we’re created in His image, we must be pretty special to Him, which is why we need to see ourselves that way too.

We are loved; we are cherished; we are His precious diadems — and He will always remind us, even through nature, even through the lives of little crows … just to help big crows like us… And for that, we can be grateful.


2 thoughts on ““Once You Have Tasted Flight…”

  1. Sandy, that blog is beautiful. You are a terrific writer. I can’t wait until your first book comes out. I will be first in line. I will also be able to say that you are my wonderful sister. This was sad and happy at the same time. You keep up the good work.

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