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Some Big Wings Soar

Sometimes I think a person who has escaped the cubicle and the rat race can undermine their own cause by puffing up with expectations that are too grand and romantic. No matter how you envision the perfect lifestyle, daily life still has to be built one humble brick at a time: perhaps a better diet, working on your rig, taking the dog for numerous walks, watching thunderstorms build up, reading and writing, investing, or keeping a keen eye for wildlife and birds. 

Lately I have drifted away from photographing birds. The great advantage of being a bird watcher is that it can be done anywhere and almost any day. But that is looking at life the way a Baron d'Holbach or utilitarian philosopher would. There are advantages to their approach, as I was writing about last post.

Or there is that other utilitarian, Benjamin Franklin, who wrote a classic line in his autobiography: "Human Felicity is produced not so much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen as by little advantages that occur every day."

But their approach doesn't inspire a strong interest or passion in something. So I switched back to the rival philosophical camp, the Romantic one, to revive my interest in birds. This approach might work for many people.

You could take off on a walk up the ridges and mesas of open BLM country. But mountain biking will work even better because it puts the mind in the mood of graceful flow. Up you go, getting warm even on a cool morning. You notice a cooling breeze that brings relief, but also sucks you into a way of thinking, a way of being affected by what you see. The endorphins and dopamines do their job as usual, as do a gain in altitude and an escape from the lowly clutter of towns. (Extra credit to any reader who can insert the canonical quote from William Blake at this spot.) Also, I managed to make a through-route out of a previous dead-end route.

Therefore the Romantic in me was prepared to see any thought that popped into my head as a higher form of Wisdom. An unusual view popped up, at just the right moment. 

The white tail and wing patches grabbed my eye. At first I thought I was seeing my first bald eagle, but they have white heads. Another bird of the same size and shape glided circles nearby, but since it was dark and drab, it was probably his mate. 

A poor internet signal at the moment keeps me from doing thorough homework on the What Bird website. So far I have checked out various hawks, eagles, and vultures; but this bird doesn't match any of them. The bird-identification websites always show pictures of a bird from underneath, the usual position of the observer!

My camera was zoomed out to take this moving photo. Isn't it great that their auto-focus capabilities have gotten so good that it could focus on a moving bird?

Once again, one of my happiest moments occurs at high altitude on open land, with birds playing gloriously with thermals or ridge-lift. Am I really too old to take up hang-gliding?


John V said…
That looks like a white tail hawk. The white spots on the wings are really interesting. I'm surprised you've never seen a bald eagle in all of your travels.
The name sure sounds right. Wikipedia doesn't mention prominent white blazes mid-wing, tops. The photos never show what the damn bird looks like from above! They always assume the observer is base and sublunary, instead of a celestial mountain biker.
Ed said…
I always try for the extra credit, that is to make up for my missed assignments.

"Great things are done when men and mountains meet." - William Blake
...that doesn't happen, jostling in the street.

I knew you would nail it.
Alan Oak said…
Not sure how old you are, but one of my friends took up hang gliding in his mid-50s.
Good for him!

Actually there are other reasons why I have never seriously considered taking up hang gliding, but nobody really needs to hear my critique. So I will just settle for enjoying it vicariously by watching hang gliders every now and then, and by watching birds with ridge-lift or thermals.
Rand said…
immature golden eagle - the markings below are the same
I believe you are right, Rand, and thank you so much! I reread the fine print on Wikipedia's article.

At first it was hard to see that bird as "immature", because it was so big. That's kind of funny: we have made friends with a 6 month old labrador retriever at the bakery where I hang out. He is pretty big, but is definitely immature!