September 10, 2019
The beginnings of flight are incredibly awkward-looking. My eye is accustomed to photos of seagulls in flight, silver-tipped wings outstretched with a glint of the sun’s shine. While nothing really could, I would have imagined, be as miraculous as flight, I am equally stunned at the gift of flight’s launch.
When I was vacationing, I photographed seagulls. As much as I would rather write about another topic, weeks later, those photographs still haunt me. I did not lie on the beach, trying to catch the gulls in “streamline flight mode” with a perfectly framed shot of shore, waves and maybe a scrubby oak branch. I have done that.
Nope, on the last day I walked on the fishing pier, the south-side one. The gulls were feeding on the late summer run. In early August, the lake waters have not yet turned over. The warm waters were still churning into the cooler, deeper waters with every crash of wave against shore.
The lake is always romantic and equally fertile for philosophizing but that vacation was a bit more pragmatic. I needed to rest. I needed to breathe and walk, if only for three days, on the shore, outside, among waves, sand and gulls. (And not do dishes or laundry!).
One particular seagull caught my eye. Grey dusted his wings more than most, but otherwise he was a gull among gulls. He did not seem to mind when I sneaked up, then chased him into flight. Gulls do not seem to mind at all, preoccupied more with the choice of either to remain perched at the possibility of food or to flee from potential danger. He (or she, to be fair) maintained his post until the very last moment, fluttered up only a few feet but quickly returned to the railing. Fish were coming to the surface in the late afternoon shallower, warmer waters and I posed no threat to his endeavors.
Admittedly, the gull and I did this particular dance quite a few times as I snapped photos. The bent wings thrust up while wing tips fanned outward. The body convulsed for seconds as the gull’s entire body leveraged its weight against the mechanics of wings. Feet dropped. Dangled, even. The last effort of muscle maintained its head to an ungraceful carriage. All within seconds of launch, the gull looked nothing like the experts who soared above.
The wings rose in a pull of muscle above the birds neck, above its head, to raise the body. I wondered as I watched. The bird itself never acknowledged a sense of timing. The bird never wondered if the legs pushed or did the body fall into the nothingness of air? Was it the second or the third thrust of wings which supported its weight into take-off? The bird never wondered at all, but in a slice of moment and in a timing only known to a wing itself, the gull flew.
And wings beat downward. They thrust. The gull’s feet dangled. The gull’s neck arched below its wings. The gull’s wings beat faster and faster. In those first moments of flight, with thrusts of jointed wing bones and hollowed feather shafts, perfected to flight over waters and honed through eons of evolution, the seagull is airborne.
Other seagulls flew above it in graceful air dances. But they started their flight too, with dangling feet and misaligned head and neck.
It is the nature of flight.
I suppose the formal step one is the embrace of awkwardness. Ugh. While that may be the logical beginning, I do not really believe it. I just think I need to state it.
There. Embrace your awkwardness. Stated. Done.
But, see, I think embracing awkwardness is itself a fallacy. You will never be comfortable. Awkwardness is never comfortable. And the pursuit of awkwardness is not awkwardness. Nope. You cannot pursue the awkward.
But I think there is a piece of life that should be awkward or could be, if chosen to be. We have one life, one chance, and many many dreams.
In fifty-four years I never realized that flight, my flight, begins with dangling feet and crooked, bent wings. I never realized that my flight begins too, with a soul of fingered wingtips and a tested sense of navigation.
And tail feathers. This lady has tail feathers… (awkward, but true…)
In the coming week, think about awkwardness, your awkwardness. It is your own challenge or maybe it is not. Who knows?
But for me, I currently have two prayers among many. First, I pray to listen to the lesson of the gulls who I have watched since I was a young girl visiting her grandparents. I loved watched seagulls and trees. Never before had I noticed the awkward beginning of flight.
Secondly I pray that there is no “seagull karma”. If so, I might pay dearly for repeatedly chasing one particular grey-wing gull.
(More than awkward, just saying.)
Lots of love and a kiss…may you be Blessed,