I read loons sometimes mistake parking lots for lakes. Once landed they can’t hit reverse, needing a wide spread of water to take off. I can’t get this vision of a large, perplexed sort-of-duck wandering among cars and busy shoppers out of my head.
In school we were taught that humans became bipedal to run on the savannah and never looked back to the trees. Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of apocalyptic fantasy. After the dust has settled and the survivors encamp, they are found in watchtowers, highrises or caves in cliffs facing rivers. Often planes are featured. The losers bleed out in deserts or grasslands, crows pick over their bones, which eventually bleach in the sun.
I’m terrified of heights and my daughters capitalize on this, hang over safety fences on mountain lookouts, talk of bungee jumping, show off photos of themselves on high, narrow ledges. After my mother died there was talk of throwing her ashes out of a hot air balloon. Dad asked me to join him, presumably so we could both cower in the bottom of the basket and throw the canister with an overhead, Hail Mary pass. A combination of 9/11 and a cancelled flight back to Minnesota and, later, unfavorable winds prevented a sky burial and, so, she is marked by a white oak that faces the spot where the eaglets fledge.
My fear isn’t of height, it is of my desire to leave solid ground. In spite of what we have been taught, we always look higher and envy the birds for their wings not the centipedes for their feet. Like the loon who alone among birds has solid bones, more than desire, air currents and proper landing gear are required and, like the loon, I constantly look around, bewildered, wondering where I took the wrong turn and ended in the fool’s paradise of sun glinting on asphalt.