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Francis Flora Bond Palmer: Across the Continent:
"Westward the Course of Empire Takes its Way", 1868
[James Merritt Ives (printer), Currier and Ives (publisher)]

"We revere New Beginnings, for only they can turn our fears into our dreams come true."

The grandparent birds seem almost amused at just how confused the exit seems, for they've, between them, done this at least a hundred times. They possess a rhythm between them that would surely guide their wings, but there's no known way to ever transfer that sort of experience. So the fledglings flap and flop their way, first close, then progressively further. None simply fly away. What might have taken a day with experienced wings will likely take a few while learning, remembering what a short time ago flying amounted to simply mounting the edge without ever actually departing before settling back in for another brought-in supper. Chicks grow exclusively exponentially, though, and nesting space eventually disappears. Somebody's finally got to leave, and the nest always was the grandparent birds' place, never theirs. Birth places, even re-birth places, only ever come in the form of future departure points, and one of those points eventually arrives.

"At least they're heading West," you say, since East somehow seems so retrograde.
Great migrations must move forward, neither backward nor to either side. Every single worthwhile story moves toward the setting sun and always has. An inborn instinct determines eventual trajectory, and the final moment, just before departure, disappears just before it's seen. The season seems a tad late for migration, an earlier snowfall having wilted most of the vegetation between here and almost everywhere else. The transition might seem like a moving hibernation featuring a day or two they'll mistake for genuine starvation until they later learn to really starve, like all artists eventually must. One properly carves their own pathway, even though not a single one has ever known their way beforehand. Destination unknown, other than away, that's the only known way to actually escape, and nobody ever really stays behind. If we're not born to run, we're most certainly born to wander, wondering most of the way. An exit could be executed no other way, at least not reasonably.

I can't watch and this departure craves no audience, for it's too deeply personal of an experience for witnessing. Most of the real work ain't expended in schlepping boxes and mattresses and tarantula terrariums, but in shifting orientation. The homing instinct comes to mislead after proving itself flawless. It might have originally guided her here but it cannot possibly guide her back out. A period where no compass guides, where reliable landmarks mislead, might give way to some presently unimagined way of navigating and then of living in some other sort of home. She'll know when she finally arrives in some curiously familiar place she's certainly never been before, very likely utterly unlike anything she's ever known. That will become where the homing instinct, long displaced, might freshly imprint as if were always so. Nobody could possibly know yet the precise location of that home.

"Where the heart is," they'll insist while speaking from their basso voice of extensive experience, but nobody really knows what or where any heart is except when their heart discloses. Until then, a few friends might ease an otherwise utterly terrifying transition. Between here and there should properly scare the pants off you sometimes, and leave a few pin feathers flying. Is it courage or just instinct that guides any fledging's destiny? Each leaves so that they might arrive, like each flies lest they just passively lie there. It's always an unfair fight. Gravity holds clear advantage while freshly found levity canters through. We revere New Beginnings, for only they can turn our fears into our dreams come true. You, too, will very likely see yourself through the upcoming ordeals to become whatever you were born to become as a result. Leave those greying grandparent birds to their almost amusement, however confused you might feel. You, too, will eventually have done this at least a hundred times without once discovering how to transfer your experience to anyone else.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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