The Choice of Flight

Have you ever noticed how nobody looks up anymore? It’s amazing, really – our lives lived from eyes down, head bent, shoulders stooped, feet shuffling, knees weakening, back aching – when what rests above our hunched six-foot above moving towards six-feet under existence are the rustling leaves glowing in the spring sunlight. I was back-down on a trampoline on a fine spring afternoon as the thought struck me. It hit me hard, surprised me, like a punch from the left when I was looking right, or a weighty slap of cold water in the morning basin. What’s up? I giggled. Eh? What’s up, doc? Pollen floated about, tiny microspores filling my already overburdened nasal passageways that live in damnably poor conditions during the weeks spanning April-June. My giggle came out more wheeze. What is above us … and why do we – me, you, the proverbial, massive us – never quite know? When I was in college (those lovely days of simple responsibility during which even I managed to toe with some semblance of respectable maturity) I spent hours in a tall oak tree outside of Phillips Hall, the accursed, dim structure which housed my physics and mathematics courses. On these fine afternoons which found me in the boughs I sat and watched the students go by. Sometimes I would call out, or squawk, or bark, or chirp, just to see what would happen. Most passed by without pause, perhaps registering deeply in their subconscious that an unknown outside influence has surfaced in the nearby vicinity yet their subhuman survival instincts were so forever repressed that no action was garnered. Some would stop, peer slowly around, their eyes weaseling into sharp slits of apprehensive mistrust – they’re out to get me – and after no more monkey hoots were tossed their way so they continued, shoulders relaxing back from their high perch near the alleged victim’s ears to rest back down in the parabolic slope definitive of all pack-weary, heavy-hearted academics. With the few who did conceive of a body in the trees inevitably found me, feet dangling over their head, waving manically down, and inviting them to join. None ever did, I suppose their time more important than mine.

Yet on this fine spring day, the day during which I sat and stared high into the sky, puzzling over the deepening blues and whites of the mid-afternoon frontier, my thoughts drifted not towards the complacent transgressions of my college peers … rather further, higher. I thought of birds. Winged beasts of feather and flight who soar higher than we dream, yet too spend their lives looking down. They climb and fall, swooping for perch on these shaking limbs before spearing off again, glints of red and yellow and dark, dark blue. They are searching, it seems to me. They remind me of myself – of you. They’ve the gift of flight, we’ve the gift of opposable, jointed thumbs, yet it’s not good enough. Satisfaction is guaranteed only in its inability to satisfy. More, thirst for it. More, hope for it. More, spend your life toiling for it, crying for it, fighting and biting and spitting and breaking for it. Let the words come thrashing out, lashing out. Avert your gaze, bear the weight, and trudge on to the next destination, reaching your final resting state in the years to come. Spend your lives looking down for the birds do it too. Spend your days dreaming of the sky and where venturing up and out may take you, yet never look far. For the blues of spring have turned wiser men askance, and life – this life – is just too busy, too meaningful, to take the time to ponder the beyond: what sits atop the clouds, what floats above the canopy of bloom in the highest tree with its greenest leaves. Look down, friends. Look down and take solace in that this is one world where survival exists from existence … from the six-feet down, headed towards six-feet under. Sit and relax, and smile, and talk. Watch and listen and wait for the sound – of birds chirping above, and beyond, as they float to their new homes, drifting on the westerly wind driving in the coming storm.

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