Chapter 39 – A Word for Flight
After the Little Flyer had fallen and subsequently taken off between the trees, the other lizard youths immediately scrambled down the great tree, raising a racket of colors and sounds. The adult lizards, particularly the child’s five parents, and slew of older siblings, were fraught with worry. The children had a hard time describing what had happened after the fall. The closest word they had was the color pattern for ‘flying insect’ and ‘tree leaping animal’, which didn’t make a lot of sense. Despite the large wings of their mountain heritage hanging from their backs, which dragged their longest feathers behind them on the ground if they weren’t careful, they did not know the true purpose behind them. ‘Wing hop’ was one of the only words they’d invented for the use of their wings.
Over an hour passed, and no one knew where the Little Flyer had gone. They feared him dead, but their connection through the family heart told them otherwise.
Meanwhile, the Little Flyer was trying to navigate his way back. During the bliss of true flight high above the ground, he hadn’t realized just how far he’d gone away from his forest. He was not used to seeing the world from above, and all landmarks he might have recognized to point the way home were unknown from this angle. He at least made for the treeline separating the forest from the plains, and hoped he could find his way back from there.
Thankfully, I was there with him. I helped him keep his orientation, and when he drifted astray, I gave him a little push in the right direction. To him, it was likely no more than getting a bad feeling going a certain way. I could have just shown him how to get home, but some part of me refrained. Although I guided him, it was indirectly, and I hoped he’d learn from constantly surveying his surroundings rather than blindly following my instructions. I did not want to become a crutch upon which the lizards depended, but a conscious when they had doubts, an inspiration from which they could grow, and a guiding light when they were lost in the dark; just like they had been for me.
Finally the Little Flyer came upon a sight he knew well—the large tree from which he fell. He tipped his wings and curved around the towering tree, eventually landing on one of the upper branches; not the skinny ones he broke at the top, but the safe ones a little below. He scanned the sparse green branches, but didn’t see his friends on any of the lower limbs. He started to hop back down, branch to branch, and then suddenly seemed to remember he had another option for getting down to the ground.
He took to a particularly thick limb and hopped over to the edge before spreading his wings and letting the wind resistance do the rest. He floated slowly down, moving in the direction of the colony, a route he was quite familiar with. The Little Flyer alighted on the forest floor after taking his easy descent to the ground and came upon a big cacophony of sounds and lights.
He slinked his way into the crowd, trying to see what everyone was kicking up a fuss over. One of the young adult lizards next to him took a glance at him, then did a double take. He suddenly made a surprised vocalization in the Little Flyer’s direction, causing the youth to shrink back from the abrupt outburst. Suddenly he was the center of attention in his immediate area, swirls and patterns of surprise and inquiry all clamoring towards him. It made him want to run and hide, but after the initial surprise subsided, he found looks of relief and elation among the crowd. This only served to confuse him more, and bewildered colors graced his head, wondering what exactly was going on.
Before anyone could answer, the crowd was pushed apart, and there appeared his three mothers and two fathers, along with a gaggle of his siblings. They all took him into a huge group hug, one that nearly choked the life out of him. The same looks of relief graced the feathers of his entire family. After taking a moment to indulge in the overflowing love coming from them, he released a curious chirp, still confused by the whole situation.
Two of his parents gave each other a look, while the other three took a moment to bombard him with questions. Where had he been, was he all right, were all his feathers still intact? The Little Flyer didn’t know where to start, and during the time that passed in which he didn’t answer, even more questions arose. Finally, the first two parents calmed their partners’ relentless interrogation of their young son. Colors of impatience caressed their shoulders, but they held back to give the young lizard a moment to breathe.
After a moment of rest, with the entirety of his colony looking at him, his calmer parents asked him simply to tell them what happened.
The Little Flyer started with the race to climb the tree. He very quickly added that he knew his parents had told him to be careful when climbing, but in the heat of the moment, the desire to win and prove himself had overtaken his common sense. He knew he was likely to be scolded later for that, but continued on with his tale. Upon surpassing the other youths, reaching one of the highest branches, he looked out over the forest but for a moment. The branch underneath his feet snapped, and try as he might, he could not grab hold of a lifeline. What happened next was a little fuzzy, and the way he described it was the family heart pouring out from his chest and gently wrapping him in its embrace. He used the term for the heart connection that the lizards had with their Quick Springs, and even though it was just him, it felt like he was truly riding with someone.
And then, suddenly he was not falling down, but up! And then forward! The ground no longer posed a threat so much as the trees, and he weaved in and out of them, careful not to crash. Some of the Quick Spring riders nodded in recognition at that same feeling they had when riding their mounts through the denser parts of the forest; excitement and panic heightening the senses, bringing the two closer together in their endeavor to navigate the trees. And then he came to the part where he broke through the trees and was in the air over the vast plains. ‘Falling up’ and ‘in the air’ didn’t quite capture the meaning of what he was doing, and many lizards didn’t understand what he meant.
He recounted the urge he received, then, still under the protection of the family heart, he came upon a great gust of wind that took him high into the sky, and he saw the whole world from on high. He was very enthusiastic about that last part as it still held him in awe when he recalled it. Even though he’d been the one to experience it, he still almost couldn’t believe it.
Still the lizards were confused. His parents brought up the ‘flying insect’ and ‘tree leaping animal’ the other youths had used to describe his action. The words were both right and not right. Even the Little Flyer couldn’t think of a good way to describe it beyond what he’d already told them.
One of his siblings then asked if he could show them instead. The three overprotective parents immediately raised a ruckus at the idea of their son performing a death defying act once more, but he was already scrambling for a nearby tree before they even realized he was gone. They vocalized cries of fear and anger as across their feathers came quick and distressed calls for him to halt his actions. A couple lizards even crawled up after him to bring him back down to safety.
He only went to a low branch, one he could easily jump down from. Then, he hesitated for a moment. He had been excited to show everyone his ability to be ‘in the air’, but when it came time to jump off the branch and spread his wings in front of everyone, the suppressed fear of falling from the tallest tree suddenly assaulted him. What if it had all been a dream and he couldn’t really stay in the air? Doubts plagued his heart.
Then he did something I did not expect. He reached out through the family heart to me. I did not immediately respond as I was too dumbfounded to do much of anything. I had always reached out to them, but it was still so new for them to do the same, I just wasn’t used to it. The way his heart fumbled around trying to locate me at the core of their connected hearts amazed me as I watched. It was touching in a way I couldn’t describe, that he sought me out for comfort and a boost of confidence. Not his family, but me, and I felt my heart welling up with all sorts of chaotic and loving emotions. I gently grasped his heart as if I were taking hold of his hand. I wrapped him once again in my embrace, not to control his wings, but to ease his fears that if he fell, I would catch him.
Just as the lizards behind him caught up, he suddenly leaped from the branch, brilliant confidence exuding from every feather. His wings opened in a brilliant display, the black feathers dancing with colors of excitement and wonder. Fear immediately shot through the family heart from many lizards, mostly from the adults, but fear soon turned to surprise as he did not fall, but instead stayed up in the air. He glided around this cleared edge of the colony in a few circles, slowly descending. He flapped his wings of a few times which caused outbursts of shock. The winged lizards felt their own wings itch at the familiar ‘wing hop’ action.
Although not long in the air, he had thoroughly amazed everyone and broken their concept of their own limitations. He landed in the embrace of his largest mother who used her own wings to steady herself from the light impact. No one spoke for a very long time, though colors of emotions were rampant. Soon, no one could contain it any longer and broke into clamor. How did he do that? How did he stay in the air without falling? Did he really go that high in the sky? The questions were endless.
One of the older and most well-respected lizards of the colony came to the young flyer. He was one of those that didn’t speak often, for when he did, his words had great impact on those around him. He ignored the noisy discord, and as he came to speak, the roar of sound and color immediately quieted, all eager to see what he had to say.
“Young lizard,” he began, “you have shown us today the likes of which we have never seen before. But I have no doubt the future will soon be full of lizards in our vast sky above the trees. Tell me, what would you call what you have accomplished?” Though his scales were old, they were more brilliant and pronounced than any other, and the control he had over the minutest color demonstrated the prowess of his scale singing days.
The Little Flyer thought to himself for several moments, wondering how to put the feeling he felt into words that others could understand. The lizards around him waited in anticipation, eager to see the birth of a new word for their community. Even the wind in the leaves and the animals in the trees seemed to recognize the momentous occasion, and the whole forest quieted.
The young lizard’s mind wandered to his memories of the event, especially when he had risen towards the clouds. The view from up on high had almost felt like he was in another world, and suddenly he knew how to describe his deed. It began as a mixture of blues and greens, accompanied by interlacing bright yellows, that then cascaded from his shoulders down to his forearms, with a few strokes fanning out on his chest. It was a combination of several words that together meant, ‘to break free from the world’. And that became my lizards’ word for ‘Flight’.