As I walked through the marsh this morning, I heard a nearly-grown osprey chick crying plaintively from the nest. He was facing away from the marsh, which made me curious.
Further along the path, I discovered the reason. One of his parents was sitting atop a tall, dead tree, eating a fish.
Junior could not fly to the tree to nab some fish. He hasn’t quite reached the stage when he trusts his wings to the wind. His parents still have to feed him.
This morning, he was hungry. His sharp eyes told him food was nearby, and he wasn’t getting any.
Junior got a late start because a Canada goose co-opted the nest and refused to move until her six goslings hatched. When she and her six hatchlings jumped out of the nest, the ospreys moved in immediately. After a quick clean-out and build-up, the female laid two eggs.
Most years, the young osprey would be making his first flights by now. Having started life two weeks late, he can’t yet leave the nest. That nearby meal was driving him crazy.
His parents are teaching him everything he needs to know so he can fly, hunt, migrate, and start the life cycle all over again. Right now he is learning a hard lesson, that food will not always come to him. If he wants to eat, he must learn to fly, find fish, and dive accurately. He must learn to judge size when he catches a fish, for he cannot easily retract his claws and could be pulled under by a too-large prey.
So his parent sits on a tree, tantalizingly close, feeding peacefully. One day soon, Junior’s impatient hunger will exceed his hesitation, and he will fly. By ignoring the youngster’s plaintive cries, his parent is bringing that day closer.
We all sit on nests, our spirits hungry for flight, fearful the wind won’t hold us. And we stay hungry until that moment when our yearning outweighs our fear. Before that day comes, we flap our inner wings and wonder if they will ever be strong enough to hold us. Then one day our urge to fly is stronger than our fear. We stretch our wings and take that first step over the nest.
The wisdom of the ages is in those quotes about taking the first step, about doors opening once we take the risk and declare to ourselves and the world our intention to fly. We still might crash. On the other hand, we might soar.
So sometimes our best teachers are the ones who share with us all they can and then ignore us. They know our first step over the edge of the nest is one we must make on our own. When we do, they’ll be there to fly with us.