It’s fledgling season.
Fledge, as a transitive verb, means: “(1) To rear until ready for flight or independent activity; (2) To furnish with feathers.”
Tiny birds burst out of bushes at fender level, lifting by milliseconds out of oncoming cars’ paths. Parental sentries warily scan their nests’ peripheries, screeching and swooping if a squirrel bounds too close to their young ones.
Where hatchlings cluster in the delicate days before fully testing their wings one can already see a hierarchy in place, more assertive newborns pecking at their recalcitrant siblings and even sweeping them aside as they venture toward the margins of the zone where their parents perch to guard them.
I am, technically speaking, a grownup. I assuredly am my children’s only surviving parent, and some of them occupy the chronological ground between childhood and adulthood. Yet I am taking most of the lessons. That fledgling bluejay perched indefinitely on the wooden fence ledge, glancing beseechingly back over his shoulder as if to ask whether he really is expected to let go and explore alone beyond the garden that is his home base? Really? Is this a good idea? That’s me.
While I have found comfort in returning to my original work, my children have ventured without fear into new places, figuratively and literally–from making new friendships to mapping out intricate proofs and gathering data across the globe to mathematically model the spread of infectious diseases. How proud their father would be.
Perhaps they have been furnished with that other thing with feathers– the one “[t[hat perches in the soul,” that “sings the tune without the words,/And never stops at all.”