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The Vanderbilt Review

The Vanderbilt Review

The Vanderbilt Review

What Birdwatching Taught Me About Love

Image generated using TVR does not benefit financially from its publications.
Image generated using TVR does not benefit financially from its publications.

Like any hard lesson, I learned of it before I learned it. In October, as the biting winds of autumn exsanguinate summer’s saccharine lifeblood, I’d go watch birds careen through the sky. If you sieve with enough care through the clouds, you’ll catch it too; how a prerequisite for flight is the danger—the way a delicate latticework of hollow bones must be held aloft by wings so brittle, so breakable. To soar, to project through air unharmed, is to have faith.

No one knows this as well as bald eagles do. During courtship, they surface from the leaf-stripped tree line and fly hundreds of feet towards the sun. When they reach their trajectory’s zenith, the pair will lock talons, then free-fall like a comet branding its transient trail against the horizon. I used to sit in awe, wondering if eagles do all that with fear in their hearts, or how companionship can outweigh the risk of cataclysmic collision against earth’s hard, unyielding contours.

But eagles, they’ll see the ground approaching fast and pull closer nonetheless. To self-immolate is to love something. To love, irrespectively, held captive by your own longing, is to be an eagle. Hard as it is to imagine, I wish I could do the same with you. We’d plummet hand in hand, pretending that if you surrender to me, and I to you, it will hurt less on impact.

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Joanna Zheng, Contributor

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