As a young child, I sang this song to the tune of O Holy Night, in my backyard on New York’s Long Island. Decades later, from my home in central New York, I still sing it watching flocks of birds in their biannual migrations, north or south. And I sang it on the Delta Airlines flight I took the past weekend, to Florida via Detroit.
“Are you kidding? I hafta fly north to Detroit to get to Florida?” I’d protested to my son, envisioning all the potential storms and travel delays in the vast territory between the northern and southern borders of our country, which could prevent me from reaching the annual family reunion in Sanibel.
The song was stuck in my head as I finally got to walk the beach at Sanibel, kicking up sand and crunching seashells with each step. I focused on photographing flying birds. Screeching gulls lifted into a chaotic cloud around me. They scattered. My worries and backache took off with the birds. I laughed. Looking up at the sun breaking through clouds, then down at the congregations of birds resettling by my feet, and out at the Gulf of Mexico, my eyes scanned every direction, smiling. Is this freedom? I wondered. Do I belong here, by the sea? With bare legs and hair whipped by the wind, for a moment I pretended to be the wild spirit that dances around the edges of my dreams. The person I wish I was brave enough to be. Almost five years after the death of my daughter I still don’t know who I am anymore, or why I’m here, or where I’m going. This could take a lifetime of moving from north to south, east to west, and back again, to figure out. I’m okay with that.
Flying back home to New York, via Detroit, I stared breathless, not blinking, as the plane flew over the great Lake Erie. I’d never seen it before. It was like discovering another ocean.
Where might our wings carry us? And what awaits?