Sparrow Returns

cf..: Tree and Sparrow

Tweet tweet.

Hello, my sparrow.  Many moons it has been since last you alighted upon my branches.  I have missed you, all the while watching your travels from afar.  So tell me, my dear one… who have you become since last we met?

Well, my grandmother, my journeys seem to have taken me in a circle, or perhaps a spiral, to where I now see the same place as before, but from a greater vantage point, not of elevation, but of centering.

And what is the center upon which you now perch?

It is love, my grandmother.  Love in so many ways, for so many things, and people, and places, and circumstances, and stories, and ways of being.  It is a greater sense of love for those around me and the multitude of journeys that we are each traveling.  It is love for not only what is possible, but also for what is in the way – real or imagined – for the obstacles too have lessons to teach me.

Yes, my sparrow, they do.  But often, the obstacles we see are not what they appear.  They are not challenges to be overcome, but invitations to learn new ways of listening.  So tell me, what is it that you hear?

From here, I can hear the sounds of other birds in the trees.  I can hear the sound of the wind gathering strength and energy from the sun, breathing in, and then exhaling into the sky to join the clouds.  I can hear the colder air moving in to take its place.  I can hear the sounds of footsteps from fellow travelers on this journey of life.  I can hear the chatter of other conversations – many conversations – each with its own sense of purpose, for some, and wanderings for others.  I can hear cycles in all things.  I can hear cycles of peace and tranquility, giving way to restlessness, moving into action and exploration and discovery, the joy of learning, and the search for meaning.

I can hear the footsteps of the squirrels and chipmunks at my feet as they look on in wonder at what I am doing in their land talking to you.  I can hear the screech of the hawk far above that would like to make a meal of the little ones at my feet.  I can hear the noise of activity all around.  But most of all, I can hear, or more honestly, I can feel the calm in the center of it all that is rooted in love, deeply rooted in love, and reaches upwards to the sky as an act of creative self expression.  I am learning the value of stillness, of calm, and of patience.  I am letting go of the rush and hurry, and the false sense that there is an arbitrary goal, target, or level of achievement that I must reach.

I am learning that it is indeed good to have goals, dreams and aspirations, but to hold them lightly and to move towards them with the effortlessness of the wind and in harmony with the cycles of all that surrounds me.  I am learning that I am still in charge of my destiny, but that it is far easier to reach my goals by flying with the wind than against it.  And to do that, I must be still and  quite enough to sense where the wind is coming from, and where it is going.  Not all winds are going where I wish to be… so be still.  Be centered.  And throw myself into only the winds that are traveling in alignment with my higher purpose, and grounded firmly in love and connection with others.

It is time to reconnect and fly with my flock, rather than separate or apart from it.  Sparrows are not solitary birds.  Find my flock.  Because I need their help, and I don’t even know what that looks like yet.  But sparrows are not solitary birds.  Join my flock.

Tweet tweet.


Leaving the Nest

Despite having well over 500 flights under my wing, I’ve never really gone cross-country, unless you consider landing at the Issaquah high-school, which hardly counts.  Many are the times when I’ve launched in close proximity to the “big boys” (or Merydeth), only to be left in the dust, sometimes not even making it over to the North ridge.

Today was different.  After a hike up through the heat and launching before the next wave of pilots from the shuttle got there, I managed to climb well above those hovering over the King Dome, and found my way over to the North Ridge without too much difficulty.  There were two other pilots over there, and even as I climbed up through 4,000’, they were still well above me and already over I-90 towards the Sammamish Plateau.  I thought about joining them for the company (and guidance), except that I didn’t see how they were going to get back to the LZ.  Then I looked over at Rattlesnake, knowing that if I went over there, chances are that I would not get back either.

Should I dare cut the psychological umbilical cord to the Tiger LZ?  Would I at least be able to land somewhere other than a tree?  At last, I climbed up over the towers to 4,500 and decided to keep going.  Mind you, that’s probably plenty of altitude to play with, but as it was new territory for me, my sphincter started to pucker when I dropped to 3K, only to find another thousand foot ride back up again.

OK, I’m here… this is new… I don’t think I can make my way back.  But since I’m already going to need a ride when I land, I suppose I should just keep going!  I always kept at least one LZ on glide, seldom going too far one way or the other of the freeway, even though in retrospect, I probably would have been better staying more over the hills.

At one point, I figured I would need to land in what I later realized was Preston.  However, I can be stubborn sometimes, and despite dropping down to about 1,200, I managed to find something over an asphalt park that took me back up to a more comfortable 4K again and I kept going.  At this point I had no clue where I was and no idea where I was going.  Also, having drank all that water on the hike up, staring at the lakes and Snoqualmie river was not doing me any good at this altitude.  I thought about landing on purpose, but after more than 5 years flying, I had never been this far from “home” and didn’t want to land because of an itty-bitty-bladder.

It seemed to me that the LZ’s were getting farther apart at this point.  Sure, there were many places I “could” land, but fewer that I would actually choose to land.  Plus, I vaguely recalled that there were one or two places that looked great but that we were supposed to avoid, but I had no idea what those places were.  (Mental note… do my homework before my next XC flight.)  So instead, I was focusing more on schools with big football fields and golf courses.

I’ve known since I was a student pilot that the more altitude I have, the more options I have, but in traveling XC that became all the more true.  Not only would regaining altitude allow me to see farther, it also increased the range of possible LZ’s that I had on glide.  But regardless of how high I was, there always seemed to be this mental transition point between where I had one LZ in mind, when it was no longer in range, and when the next one came into my comfort zone.  It was akin to Tarzan swinging from vine to vine, where there is that point of letting go the old vine and hoping that the new one will be where it needs to be in time.  The difference was that rather than swinging through the canopy, I was several thousand feet in the sky.  I hardly got so high as to have the air go thin, but I swear that I could actually breathe easier with every hundred feet that I gained in a turn.

When it became clear that my trip was coming to an end, I had two schools to choose from, so I picked the one with a bigger field.  It turned out to be Twin Falls middle and high school, but since this was a Saturday, I could not see any flags flying to give me an indication of the wind.  So I put myself into a gradual turn while watching my GPS.  At one part of my circle I was doing 35 miles an hour, whereas the other side had me going closer to 5.  OK, so it’s clear what direction its blowing up here… I just hope it’s the same as I get closer to the ground.

Ah, yes… the ground.  That thing I should start looking at as I come in for landing.  That field that should be getting closer, was mysteriously getting ever so slowly farther away on my ground-track.  CRUD!!!  That meant that my numbers were 35 MPH to the southwest, versus 5 miles an hour to the southwest, and the “best” number still had me traveling freaking BACKWARDS!  I had set up for what should be a long final, only to realize that I was getting farther away rather than closer to my landing zone!

Fortunately, I was still at about a 700 feet, so I had plenty of space to change the pitch of my wing with the speedbar and increase my forward speed.  I wanted to land as close to the downwind side of the field as I could in order to stay out of the rotor from the trees on the upwind side, but not so close that I risked missing the field altogether.  For goodness sake, we just had the 4th of July last two days ago… couldn’t somebody have enough patriotism to leave their flag up through the weekend?  I was developing a greater appreciation for the traditional LZ with wind-socks on both ends and the chance to watch others come in for landing to see what happened to their wings before I set up for my approach.

Alas, I came in almost dead-center of the field with a ground-track just slightly more than a walk.  I flared my wing like the dickens, but still managed to hit the ground with a grunt before killing my wing so as to avoid getting yarded across the field.  The unfortunate part about the center of the field, however, was that after quickly putting my wing into a rosette, the edge of the field where I could pee was now that much further away.

After packing up my wing, I opened Google Maps on my phone to see where I was, and to figure out how to get towards the freeway.  Two kids were walking near the back of the school and I asked them which way was the quickest way to the front of the school.  They looked at me like I was an idiot, and one said “just go back the way you came,” but then I told him why I couldn’t really do that.  “Oh.  Really?  Cool.  That way.”

I had a sign on the back of my pack that said “Glider pilot needs ride” as I started walking down the road, but nobody was stopping.  I probably wouldn’t stop for me either, as I looked pretty ragged at that point.  Just as I was contemplating tossing a lightweight cotton skirt into my pack for next time, some 86 year old guy in a pickup truck honked and gave me a ride all the way back to the LZ nearly 20 miles away.

He refused any compensation, and I thanked him profusely.  After the requisite “whoo hoo!” and sharing the tale to a fellow pilot or two, I still managed to get home in time to tuck the kids into bed and have dinner with Kristen.

All in all?  An extremely good day!



Click on image to download the Google Earth file

Tree and Sparrow

I am a tree.  I do not struggle to reconnect with the ground, for it is always connected to me, and if ever that were not the case, I would cease to be.  Nor do I struggle in my efforts to be seen, to grow, to bring forth my life into the world.  Growing ever larger, stronger, and more powerful is my nature, and in so doing I contribute to the life of everything around me.

There may be times when I grow more, and times when I grow less, but even in the cold, dark, dormancy of winter, I remain connected to the ground, ready, waiting, silent and still, yet remaining true to my purpose of life.  When the conditions are right, I will awake.  While they are not, I will be still and focused.

But you, young sparrow, have flown from branch to branch, from tree to tree, from hillside to mountain to rocky crag, always sure that you had a purpose, but not heading the call of what that is and what it holds for you.  You have known the wind as your friend and played with it when present, but have yet to fully extend your wings and see that you can fly to great heights on you OWN power.

You have feared that to fly too high would put you too far from the ground that supports you, when nothing could be further from the truth.  The ground is always available to you, and the higher that you fly, the more ground that comes within your view.  The farther you see, the more possibilities open up for you on where to land —  for a moment, a day, or a lifetime.  Your home will always be on the ground, but your life and destiny are to be in the sky.

Look at my branches, reaching in all directions, each one offering a gift of shade, of food, of berries, of shelter or support to you.  Look at my bark, offering a home to the smallest of creatures that climb up my trunk.  We are sisters,  you and I.  And while you take shelter in my strength and stability, I take delight in your power and flight.

Listen to the wind… Do you hear it?  No, you do not.  Instead, what you hear is the sound of me and my brothers as the wind flows through our branches.  That is the sound of two worlds joining together; the threshold between the world of the earth and the world of the sky.

My dearest sparrow, you must fly.  Not just physically, but metaphorically, for only you can reach the heights of your destiny, to live your life of freedom, of purpose, of certainty, of care, of love, of delight, of power, of brilliance, of leadership, of discernment, and of LIFE.

Only then can you return to my branches and share with me your stories.  Only then can you return to the other creatures of the earth and tell them of the beauty of far away lands.  Only then can you inspire and lead others to begin their journey of greatness, whatever that may be.  You can chirp of your dreams as loud as your lungs will allow, but it is only when others see you in flight that they are inspired to reach for their dreams as well.

And so, young sparrow, take flight not of fancy, but of purpose – your purpose – a flight of greatness so that you may return and show others their way.  My branches will be here upon your return, and you can tell me great tales of where you have been, and of renewed purpose for where you will go next.  But fly you must.  The tallest of my branches is but the ground from which you launch.  Go forth into the sky and experience the world as yet unknown to you.  Go.  Go.  Go in peace, and love.

The theme of this post continues, 2 years later, with Sparrow Returns