Friday, August 21, 2009

Learning to fly by falling

A visit from an eagle inspired my previous post. That post jogged my memory where I stored, amazing-facts-about-eagles, which prompted this post. I hope you find the information as fascinating as I do.

Eagles learn to fly by first learning to fall.

Like parents prepare a nursery, eagles prepare a nest. Maybe that's why we call it nesting when expecting mothers put everything in perfect order prior to delivery.

The mother eagle will line the outside of the nest with strong branches, like the foundation and structure of a house. Next she lines with smaller more pliable limbs and twigs. Each layer is lined with smaller, softer material. Finally, for the finishing touch, she pulls soft downy feathers from her breast and tucks them in. The crib is finally ready for Junior.

Prior to all of this, mamma eagle has her own episode of Survivor. The male eagle must pass a strenuous series of courtship challenges to be considered as an acceptable mate.

It starts out like this; Female eagle finds a small stick and carries it high into the air and drops it. The male auditioning for the role of fatherhood impresses by swooping down and catching. This is repeated. Each time with a larger stick dropped from a lower altitude. Finally, she carries the largest object she can and drops it from the lowest altitude in the series of tests. If the male ever fails to make a catch the ritual is ended and they will never mate. If he passes each test, they perform a mating ritual fraught with symbolism and mate for life…and live happily ever after... But that’s another story.

After eaglet is born, fed and nurtured. The day comes when it’s time to leave the nest. It’s time to learn to fly. Of course, mamma has made such a nice soft nest Junior has no desire to leave the comfort of his home. He’s content to have his food brought to him in bed each day and all he has to do is sit and watch T.V. (or whatever eagles do in nests.) So, mamma starts pulling comfortable feathers out of the nest. Junior now sits on twigs where mammas soft feathers used to be. But he can live with it. Next mamma pulls out twigs and small pliable sticks. Now Junior’s crib is missing a mattress. (Kind of like removing the carpet and sheetrock from your house, all that’s left is a slab and stud walls.) Junior, no longer comfortable wobbles to the edge. Eventually, he teeters and out he falls. Yes, falls. He doesn’t know how to fly. So, he falls. Proud Papa has been waiting for this moment. Now all the stick fetching for his bride pays off. With the speed of an eagle (nice comparison huh?) he swoops down and safely catches Junior before he smashes on the rocks below. He sets him back in the nest, only to watch him wobble out of the shell he once called home. Flop and flap like a wounded duck he spirals down. Each time Papa with excellent timing saves his child from certain death. With each tumble Junior learns. First he becomes familiar with the feel of air rushing past as he falls. Next he senses the balance gained by spreading his wings.

After he has fallen enough to lose his fear of falling, he flies… Like an eagle.

How many times have I fallen? How many times have I chased a stick that seemed to have no purpose?

The symbolism is thick. We could talk of how to get the kids out of the house and on their own. We could talk of the empty nest syndrome or how to choose a mate. What about learning to fly from falling, spreading our wings? Or, how about falling? We’ve all done it. We mess up. Someone bails us out right before we crash. Back in the nest we’re not comfortable so we bail out and find ourselves spiraling out of control, in need of a savior… A Savior.

We’re all somewhere in the story. And all in need of The Savior. Do you know His name? He knows yours.

“…how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.” Ex. 19:4


Anne L.B. said...

Doug, this is a wonderful follow-up. (I'm anxious to hear all the other awe-inspiring things you know about eagles.)

So I wonder how those eaglets feel when they're falling. Do they, like mama, trust papa is on his way? Do they flounder fearfully? Or do they know they're born to puncture the air, and have no worry as they learn to fly? (Or does "no worry" only come on successive falls?)

And shouldn't those eaglets reach a point where they only fly and never fall? I sure wish I could get there. But I suppose I might forget my dependence on the Father if I did.

Oh how I loathe the pride that requires I keep falling!

Anne L.B. said...

Doug, I was asked to nominate seven blogs for the "Kreativ Blogger" award over at Comfort Writer and posted a nomination and link for you.