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Let’s talk turkey

This will seem a strange column to many, for it is about birds, lost and found dreams and new purpose. It is about staying put and going forward.
Sitting on the front porch of my barn home is a glorious experience. Mornings are the best. The sun comes up from the east and changes all in front of me in a series of waves. It warms the sky and then the earth beneath it. With its rays comes the broadening of visual perception as though the curtain is rising on a new stage play. Grass looks greener, rain sparkles and details take recognizable form.
Light does that to our world every day. It is like a fairy’s wand that awakens all the creatures of the forest around me. Even the sound of the distant interstate highway intensifies as commuters accelerate on their way to work and truckers begin the haul of another day.
The bird calls are a response to the rays of the sun. Their chirps say, ‘We see you, life, and we are here for another go at it.’
I watched the soaring of turkey vultures again today. They fascinate me, and they always have. They are remarkable. They take what comes to them and use it to enable them to soar. Road-maimed, dead carcasses are their food. They don’t kill or harm the living. They make do with the castoffs of life. They find value where other animals and people don’t. And do they soar! They use the updrafts that the rising sun produces. Rarely flapping their wings, they drift the skies for hours in a graceful form. Spiraling upward, tilting to take advantage of a breeze, drifting back down, only to ascend on the next wave of rising air.
On the ground, we often make derogatory remarks about the appearance of a turkey vulture. Their heads are nearly void of feathers and a bit of red adorns their faces. But in the air ‘ on their flight ‘ they are sheer poetry.
I need the lessons of the turkey vultures. Take what our abundant life offers. Use what does not harm others and make good out of the natural flow of energy, needs and opportunities in the environment.
While driving down to the farm, I listened to an interview on National Public Radio. The featured guest was movie director Mark Romanek. He was speaking about one of his films, ‘One Hour Photo.’ The lead character, played by Robin Williams, spent his days developing the film of other people’s exciting activities while he lamented his own rather repetitive and boring life. Romanek explained that the United States’ culture is a bit unique in its belief that it is heroic to rise above the conditions given to one in life and achieve more than expected. We applaud those who, born with seemingly limited opportunities, expand their horizons. Many other societies find honor in the mere acceptance of one’s given lot in life. Not us! We fight back and clamber to loftier heights.
Maybe a look at the turkey vulture is a good lesson for all of us. There is a time to blend in and follow the natural flow of life and a time to challenge, push and take off. How do each of us determine what is right for ourselves?
I never know if I should try to keep on pushing my body and mind so that the decline often associated with old age does not set in. Or, should I acknowledge the adage of years, relax and expect less of myself and from the world?
While sitting here writing this column, a hummingbird landed on my paper tablet. He sat with his petite and magnificent body for several seconds. I was breathless and fought off the natural urge to shoo a flying critter and felt the fear of breathing which would interrupt his stay. It was a magical moment that gave me a great insight. And this was it: Wake up! Meet the day. Let life come to you and, in its glory, surprises will come. There will be times to jump and go, and times to stay put and just enjoy. But, always wake with expectancy, curiosity and willingness.
A big bee was next to visit me on the porch. There must have been something attractive about the white writing pad on my lap. I knew, here again, the urge to leave and the need to stay put. Maybe it is because of the tension between the urge to stay in the known and the drive to move forward to the new that we find the energy and inspiration to keep living life to its fullest. The quest is indeed the excitement of it all.
The sun is higher in the sky now. The porch itself is heating up. The breeze that is so useful to the turkey vultures is now a blessing to me in this heat. And as the morning air warms up and the early breeze dwindles, I know it is time to pick up my empty coffee cup, take my pad and pen and go in the house to start cleaning.

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