Taking Flight

In spring, many may ask, “Which birds leave? Which birds stay?”

In times of transition, many may ask the same.


The screen window was open to the outside all winter as a way of managing the air temperature inside the bedroom. In winter, the screen can keep out all the rest, including the silence. In spring, the metal eyelets split and bend with birdsong from those who left and those who stayed. I saw robins in the yard today, and clustered chickadees. Yet, those were not the first bird of spring.


Somehow, I paused just long enough in the driveway to see the spark of too spring green in my side mirror. I opened the door, turned, and looked again. It was there. The parrot looking creature. Curved beak, bright wings, and it was huddled on the barren rock wall.


A bird in a cage does not necessarily have its wings clipped, so I asked, “Which birds escape?”

In times of transition, many may not ask enough about opportunity.


Could I do anything? Only if the visitor recognized me as a friend. I walked slowly and spoke softly. The green wings spread and took flight.


“It makes me sad,” I said. I remembered the blue parakeet from childhood that had flown out the open porch door. “It was raining. And cold.”


“Birds don’t get cold,” my aunt replied. “Birds leave when they can’t find food.”


Interesting. Hunger, a soulful burst of wind would push the birds to another place. Hunger not protection. It was simple. I could relate. Security is important, but not when it threatened a deep pulsing tissue. The hollow bones could survive on less, but not muscle, not fat, not the energy to move.


Unsatisfied, I looked it up.


One might wonder if birds are endowed with a magic winter survival trick. The short answer is: they aren’t. They solve the winter survival problem in many ways, often by doing many things at once. Although some species have devised the evolutionary equivalent of proprietary solutions, most birds follow a simple formula: maximize calories ingested while minimizing calories spent.


My aunt had not been completely wrong. Birds could live successfully in chilly temperatures. With the right combination of strategies. As long as their energy sources held out.


Still, it was too soon for such a bird to have returned from leaving, and impossible it could have stayed. It must have chosen to spread its wings and taken flight in the instant when the most instinctual decisions are made. My eyes shifted from the window screen to its ledge. It held another bird shape. Its glossed ceramic shine once held the cactus plant given to me on my first day of work. Inside now was only dirt, no green, not even withered skins with minimal needs, dried up.


I got in my car and drove to work still wondering,


Which birds leave?

Which birds stay?

Which birds only answer for survival is escape?

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