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Flight and light

The play of light off bird wings lifts my spirit. The sight is vestibule to higher thoughts.

Yes, I know what I've just written is hackneyed. But the actual flight of birds is no clich. Their presence on the planet inspires me to transcend myself and reminds me that much of what we covet and so mechanically pursue, birds express innately - the freedom to soar above it all.

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Gerard Manley Hopkins gets at this so much better in his poem "The Windhover." Many believe it to be one of the best in the English language. The poet is surprised by the depth of emotion he feels when he sees a falcon battling a headwind:

"My heart in hiding,/ Stirred for a bird, - the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!"

I feel the same when watching swallows swoop and dive for insects above a pond. And then, with insect in beak, hover for an instant before darting into the nest.

Their small effort lends grace and purpose to any labor. Just knowing it occurs gives the workaday a more expansive context.

And what couple, having shared the years, fails to delight at the orange blur of Baltimore orioles in winged romp through branch and sky. The feathered lovers, in tandem at every twist and turn, witness that life can change direction, yet remain one.

Even at the center of Manhattan (see article right) birds can be part of your life. And if you have difficulty spotting them, rest assured there are experienced birders like Wendy Paulson in Central Park who take as much delight in sharing the flight of a bird with someone as they do in the flight itself.

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