I’ve been watching the swallows all summer. Every nest is empty now except for one. The combined weight of the three fledglings and their parents should have caused the nest to crumble and fall to the ground by now, but someone, trying to be helpful, propped up the nest with an empty salsa container. So the birds continue their daily routine, not realizing their young ones are too big for the nest and their home is falling apart. If some well-meaning person hadn’t interfered with the natural order of things, the birds would have to choose: Fall or Fly.
As I watch them, I wonder if they are aware that all the other nests are now vacant. The neighbors have moved out and they are the only residents left. As I look up, I see three youngsters, as big as their parents, in that too small, poor excuse for a nest, still being fed, still hanging out.
One bird has been trying his wings, taking some test flights and now sits busily preening himself. The other two sit squished together and look down at me. I’m sure the ground looks awfully far away. I can almost imagine their conversation: Bird #1, feeling pretty proud of himself and confident that things are going well, comes back to tell the others “Hey you guys, flying is great! You should try it, it’s fun! ”
Bird #2 thoughtfully watches her brothers’ progress and decides to wait and see what happens before she gives her own wings a try. If he’s successful and nothing bad happens, then she will fly too.
And then there is bird #3. I feel as if I’ve known her my whole life. She sits in the nest thinking of all sorts of good reasons not to fly. “It’s really not that bad…. I’m comfortable here. The nest is fine; it’s not going to fall anytime soon – the pool guy nailed up that container and that will hold us up. You two will be leaving, so that means more room for me, right? OK… maybe it is kinda’ tight right now, but it’s going to get better, I just know it. You know I’m afraid of heights and what if my wings don’t work, what if they’re defective? I could fall into the water and drown or crash into the rocks below. Seriously, have you seen the statistics on how many tragic bird injuries there are every year from flying?” I have named her “Safety Swallow.”
I wonder if the birds truly understand the risk they are taking, if they experience fear, or is there something in their DNA that causes them to know instinctively when it’s their time to fly?
It makes me ask myself: How many times have I missed out on an opportunity to fly simply because I am too afraid of falling? With each day becoming more uncomfortable, more crowded, at some point a choice has to be made: Do I stay or do I go? Breakdown or breakthrough? Fall or fly?
I am learning that if we’re not willing to take any risks, we are destined to repeat the past. We will continue to make excuses rather than admitting to ourselves or others what’s not working. It is all too easy to stay numb to our reality, while ignoring the call of spirit and our soul’s cry for relief. To paraphrase George Santayana, “It’s far better to live in the light of tragic fact, than to forget or deny it and build everything on a fundamental lie.” We may remain frozen, settling for a fragile, plastic nest nailed to a wall when we were created to soar and reach the sky.
Sometimes it doesn’t require a big risk, but rather small, daily choices that lead to healing, transformation and making a difference.
With arms open wide, today I choose to fly….
“The reason birds can fly and we can’t is simply because they have perfect faith, for to have faith is to have wings.” ― J.M. Barrie