Most people have a favorite bird. In some cases because of their image of the bird, in others for what it says about their view of the world. Some like the jet-fighter-like flight and strike of the falcon, others the equally breathtaking yet seemingly playful flight of the hummingbird.
Benjamin Franklin famously—or infamously, depending on one’s point of view—preferred the turkey over the bald eagle as the national bird for the then fledgling United States. If you’ve never read it, here is an excerpt from a letter he wrote to his daughter on the subject:
For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.In light of this country’s many bouts of economic woes, abetted and in some cases blatantly caused by bankers, corporate raiders, and corrupt investors “Sharping & Robbing” by dubious if not completely illegal means, one has to wonder whether old Ben was onto something. The eagle soaring on high is a regal symbol of all that is great with America, or it is the avian equivalent of a robber waiting to pounce on someone to steal all they earned from a hard day—or hard life—hard at work. It is a matter of perspective.
With all this Injustice, he is never in good Case but like those among Men who live by Sharping & Robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank Coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the District. He is therefore by no means a proper Emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our Country...
I am on this account not displeased that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America...He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.
My own favorite birds are those that migrate great distances, travelers of the world—or at least the continent—who see more in a year than others do in a lifetime. These birds embody the boldness, the daring, the adventurous spirit, that make life worthwhile.
|An Arctic tern wings into Hellishollar, Iceland, still fresh|
and flying strong despite having just flown 22,000 miles from Antarctica
I don’t know if this belief is imbibed from the diluted Viking DNA coursing through my psyche, the example set by my great grandfather’s four trips across America in the days of horse and wagon, or simply a wish to justify my own 50-state and four-continent wanderlust, but birds that go boldly touch something deep within me.
Standing beneath the midnight sun in Iceland, watching an Arctic tern gliding ghostly on the north wind as it arrives from Antarctica,
I am more in awe of its 22,000-mile journey than I am of any human athletic feat, or even a trip to the moon in a spaceship. When someone makes a lunar flight just by flapping their arms, then I will be impressed.
Acts 2 & 3 coming March 2 and April 6.
Copyright © 2013 by motomynd