Dreams of Flight
The almost magical marvel of a bird, in which metabolism and muscles, nerves, and above all every sense organ combine to function perfectly and at top speed in the simple act of flight, and the marvel of bird flight itself -- neither of these is at all evident in the naked, ungainly sparrow fallen prematurely from its nest and now held by a young girl. But the promise is. The dream of flight is there. Warm and pulsing, struggling to attain itself on the palm of her hand, the dream has begun. To the seven-year-old girl, the loss of childhood is the birth of dreams of accomplishment, and growing up is learning limitations and struggling to overcome them. She's there now, at the threshold, as is the bird. The helpless life she holds will, miraculously, fly.
Flight itself, the mastery of air, has amazed and preoccupied humankind longer and more completely than anything else about birds. With no barriers in the air, to have mastery of flight is to free oneself from boundaries and borders. Men always studied flight, trying to master it from Alexander the Great, who wanted to have himself raised in a basket by hungry eagles coaxed to fly upward with pieces of meat, to Leonardo da Vinci, to all the comical or tragical early experimenters.
Today, many of the marvels of birds remain mysteries, baffling both scientists and modern technology; but in ages past, birds were wholly mysterious, highly potent, and truly magical. Even pieces of bird had those properties, which is why, for example, so many Indian tribes esteemed the wearing of eagle feathers for their strength and potency rather than for any decorative effect. Ancient Greeks, Siberians, American Indians, Africans, all believed that dreams were in fact flight that the soul flew like a bird from the sleeping body to wander through the spirit world.
To the child in Dreams of Flight, the real mystery, the awesome thing, is that the simple passage of time can bring changes and abilities to the helpless, naked baby, who now can neither sing nor fly, in fact can barely lift its head. This is the mystery and the dream: to grow up, to be imbued somehow with natural abilities, then to soar.
Dreams of Flight is a tribute to the magical, wonderful, mystery-filled transformation which we call "growing up," and to all helpless things in whom promise or a dream is strong, and real, and growing.