Teach Me to Fly
Emryn R. Syme
To fly has always been, since the first winged being left the earth behind, an act of resolution. To stand up at the edge of the Nest, of a mother’s warm embrace, and look out beyond everything you’ve ever known. To decide that maybe it’s worth the fall.
I once stood, the first among my nestmates, at that edge, looking out over the Bigness and Everything, and made that choice. To leave all that I knew for the very first time, spread my wings and let the wind hold me. And the moment I did so, I felt something awaken in my chest—the air somehow crisper, my heartbeat somehow stronger, the wind somehow wiser. I knew within all my being that I was born to fly, to see all the neverending Everything the wind could offer me.
I knew how to fly, and it seemed to be with such ease for one to know. The Nest taught me well and watched with pride as I learned to fall and then fly.
It seemed to me, for a very long time, that to Know as I did was a simple thing, only a matter of time. All flightless things just needed to listen and learn from their Nest, and perhaps one day I would meet them in the sky.
It was with this simple conclusion that one budding spring, I found a lively place filled with the tallest trees for miles around. As the snow melted, I found myself a mate, and we carefully made our own Nest, deep within an apple tree. I was methodical in my duties as I built that nest, solemnly crafting it from all I could find. And before long, we had our little Nest with little blue eggs within, warmed and waiting to see their first tiny bit of the Everything.
My only concern, which I told to my mate, was the strange large box the size of several trees. I had never seen such a thing before, and I worried it would harm our Nest. But she chirped away my worries, kindly telling me of her own hatchling Nest. It had been not too far from here, overlooking that strange box. She said it was a nest of sorts, but to strange chattering creatures that never learned to fly. Not unlike the squirrels and deer, she told me, but these moved strangely, rarely using their front paws. She had once thought they were birds like us, as they moved across the ground on two legs. But they had no feathers, and what might have been wings had never once carried them into the sky.
My fears were calmed, but I told her that these creatures may still one day fly; they just needed more time in their Nest. But she tittered in that way she did that meant I was being quite silly and said she doubted they wanted to fly at all.
Still, I watched for those creatures as they came and went. They seemed to only emerge on sunny days, not seeking food otherwise. I therefore determined they were perhaps more similar to squirrels, who kept great stores of food nearby. But even when they left, they seemingly did nothing important, simply chattering with one another and play-fighting like wolf cubs. They were awfully strange things, seemingly so similar yet so different to birds, squirrels, and wolves all at once. But all such activities ceased the moment the parents appeared; the young became silent and still like every animal did when a predator was near. And despite how very odd these creatures were, that behavior was the oddest of them all.
I told my mate of these things, as she wasn’t leaving the Nest. She tittered as I described their antics, agreeing that they were very strange creatures indeed. I noted how they seemed to have learned behaviors from all sorts of animals, like squirrels, wolves, and even beavers. I proposed to her that perhaps they could learn to fly, and they just needed to observe it close enough, like we had in our Nests. She seemed to entertain the thought only a little, but a little was enough for me.
I did not tell her how the young treated their parents like predators. It worried me greatly, and she should not have such worries as well.
But I felt, from that day forward, a strange sort of obligation to those young creatures, flying past them in hopes they would learn to fly. My actions at least seemed to encourage them, as they began flapping their featherless wings and running after each other. However, their feet never truly left the ground. But it seemed to be good progress, and my obligation towards them only grew. I didn’t believe I would have learned to fly if I hadn’t a Mother to teach me in my Nest. If these creatures had no Mother, then they might never learn to fly, never leave to see the Everything and make their own Nest.
Yet, it was one summer day, as the sky greyed and stormed, the wind lashing about angrily, that I fully accepted my responsibility.
One of the creatures—a Child, I learned they were called—crawled out of its nest and across the ground. I had never seen them moving on all fours, and so I believed something was wrong. As the rain wasn’t yet too bad, I fluttered down to stand on a small sapling so I might observe the Child more closely.
It heard me as I approached and looked up with wide eyes.
Up close, I could recognize this was one of the older children, perhaps only just younger than the eldest. It did not stumble as much as the others, and it was not prone to injury. Yet a strange discoloration now stood out starkly below one eye. Water flowed from both, which often happened when they were injured or even displeased with one another. But usually only the youngest displayed this tendency, and even then it was accompanied by loud noises that disturbed every Nest in the area. This Child was breathing shallowly, one of its paws—or perhaps wings, I still wasn’t quite sure—pressed against its mouth as if to silence its helpless cries.
Much like a wolf cub left alone with a predator.
I fluttered down a bit further, settling on the stretch of sideways trees that surrounded the Child’s nest on all sides. It was too tall for the children to climb over, and I had only ever seen their parents leave through it.
I chirped at the Child in concern, studying it for injury. If it were hurt, surely it would be better to be within its nest, being nursed back to health by its Father and Mother?
But as I looked again at the discoloration beneath its eye, I recognized its size matched the wings of the Father.
I chirped once again, moving back and forth along the sideways tree in earnest. The Child was hurt by its Father. I knew now that these strange creatures had their young as prey. But their prey was not food, as seemed to be the way of all other creatures. Whyever a parent would harm their young was inconceivable to me.
The Child looked up at me with its watery eyes and shuddering breaths. Its wing moved away from its mouth as it studied me, and I found its mouth trembled much like the rest of its body.
“Teach me to fly,” the Child whispered to me, voice breaking.
I turned my head to get a better look at it and chirped to make certain.
Somehow the meaning was understood, and it whispered again, just a little stronger, “Little Robin, please teach me to fly.” Its mouth trembled again, and more water came from its eyes. “To fly up and away, past this fence, to the sky and beyond. To fly across the world, never to be tied down again. Please, teach me to fly.”
I chirped in agreement, enthused that it asked. I tittered on to it about the Everything, how it was when I left my Nest, and how beautiful it all was to fly. It listened in earnest, though I wasn’t sure how much it understood. I told it of how the first time can be scary, as you will either fall or you will fly. And when all your life you’ve known nothing but your Nest and nestmates, looking over the great expanse of Everything can make you shudder like a bush in a storm.
I told it how, for me, it was possible from encouragement from my Mother, out of an ambitious desire to see more. But for the Child, I told it, it must fly because a nest was no Nest when it was filled with predators. You must learn to fly, Child, I exclaimed. You must, you must, you must.
As I flew from post to post, trying to show it how, something lit in its pain-filled eyes. It stood on two legs, just like a bird, however tremulous those legs may be. It drew near to the sideways trees, looking up at me. “Tell me about Everything,” it pleaded, palm pressed against the trunks.
So I did. I told it of clouds that left chilly dew in my feathers, of water that tumbled from high in the mountains. I chirped and tittered and told of how all these things could be seen if it learned to fly, fly, fly.
The Child looked up at me as if it had never had a Father to tell of the beauty in Everything and to urge it to see it all. And as I chirped and sang to it of the Everything, it reached up, digging its tiny claws into the soft, dead wood of the sideways trees. And, little by little, it climbed up to me.
The Child pulled itself up high, balancing on the trunk with its breast pressed against the wood. I chirped, showed it how to stand on two feet, and spread my wings. I flew in a small circle, away from the Child’s Nest into a bit of the Everything, circling around and coming back. The Child’s eyes had followed my flight, seeming to tremble just a little less.
You must fly, little one, I told it. Fly away from this den of predators, find a new Nest. Make your own, if you must. Fly far away until you find a Mother who can teach you about the beauty of the Everything. Fly, little Child. Fly.
The Child stood, the first among its nestmates, at that edge, looking out over the Bigness and Everything. It looked for a trembling moment back to that den, where its nestmates were warm and dry. But it knew as I did that they too were trapped among predators. It looked back to me, to the Everything, and made that choice. To leave all that it knew for the very first time, to spread its wings and let the wind hold it fast.
It leapt to the sky, wings spread to embrace the wind, and Fell into the unknown. Into the Everything.
The Child did not fly as I did, but I knew then that how one flew meant little. All that mattered was that they flew beyond the torment of their Garden. All that mattered was that they spread their wings and jumped to embrace the Bigness and Everything, feeling something awaken in their chest—the feeling of the air somehow crisper, heartbeat somehow stronger, wind somehow wiser. To know within all their being that they were born to fly, to see all the neverending Everything the wind could offer.
I knew how to fly, and it seemed to be with such ease for one to know. The Nest taught me well, but some did not have that gift.
So instead, I turned and watched with pride as the Child learned to Fall to fly.