I’ve become a birder. I’m not quite at the level of, say, Audubon, but I have a few IDs under my belt. There are your standard herons and egrets (yawn), bagel-snatching gulls, pelicans resting on pylons. And then there are my discoveries: red-winged blackbirds and boat-tailed grackles and mourning doves. Sure, there are mockingbirds I haven’t pegged yet, but in all the swooping to and fro, I’ve found that really, there are only two types of birds: those that flap and those that soar.
You know what I’m talking about. There are diminutive sparrows that have to work to move through the air. Silhouetted against the creeping dusk, their eager wings push the air away in an effort to get on top of it somehow, to be suspended. You can sense the sweat on their brows.
It seems cruel when another avian cruises through the crisp currents with ease. This bird is bigger, and yet as it flies in circles around our sweet, studious sparrow, it seems to have all the success with none of the work. But the sparrow doesn’t give up. It doesn’t catch a draft and coast back to earth to hide among brambles. Still, it flaps. Still, it beats. Still, it flies.
Which bird are you, I wonder? Gliding is an easy thing once you learn to leap, to steer, to stop. But flapping is hard, straight-forward, constant. I think I’m a hybrid, more of a bird on a roller coaster. I flap uphill and soar around twists and turns, sailing on momentum achieved from earlier labor. Do you push push push? Do you glide from perch to perch? I’m not sure yet which is better in life. It seems flapping would teach you more in the long run. If I were a bird, though, boy would I love to glide.