There is a taste of fall in the air. Just a kiss riding light on the wind and it carries with it a promise of the change of seasons. For those who fret about the upcoming seasonal change there is no reason to worry, because that is tomorrow. And there is nothing we can do about tomorrow. To plague the mind with events we have no control over is a waste of time. And time is a precious thing.
The Canada Geese I have been watching as I make my way around the lake this summer have been preparing their young for the migration south and time is short for them as well.
In the beginning of spring, when eggs were hatched and fuzzy-headed fluffs wandered about the park, the parents were concerned with trying to guarantee their children would survive infancy and fledge. Now at midsummer parents are preparing them for the arduous journey ahead. In the three or four short months of summer their babies have to learn what to eat, who or what may be a threat, how to swim and watch beneath, how to recognize the language of the extended family, and not only fly but to be certain of their place in the formation of the vee for the long journey. That’s a lot of information to ingest in a short amount of time.
By September the yellow and brown puffballs look like the adults for the most part but still have the look of uncertainty that can only be erased by the experience of surviving an entire season. A few babies have not been fortunate. Lessons ill-learned, inexperienced parents and the fortunes of others have clipped their lives short. Wrong place, wrong time or ill-fated luck had taken them.
Now on the far side of summer those whom were lucky and smart are practicing the art of flight with their parents. Test runs to build their wing strength. There are repeated trips around the lake to learn the subtleties of using the wind to their advantage and what to do when their advantage is replaced by a mean-spirited, rain-laden wind. They are young and soft in muscle. Everything they do is a bit of a struggle but they are learning, watching, gaining strength. They must. A day will come soon when all their schooling must be put into practice. And failure to learn even one lesson carries a catastrophic penalty.
I watch them as they practice above me. Parents calling encouragement, children trying to manipulate the wind to their will, then understanding they must use what the wind gives them. Their talents vary, their skills obviously lacking in control and experience as they flop and grope for some unseen grasp of the air currents. Statistically, 50% will not survive the journey, but there is no time to worry about what will happen tomorrow, it is right now that concerns them. Mastering the day translates into success; into lessons well taught and well learned. A lottery win for all intent and purpose.
We are much the same. Wasting time concerned with what might happen tomorrow instead of tasting the moment is much like worrying over a coming migration instead of learning to master the moment, to fly well today.
Fly well today my friends, and tomorrow will take care of itself.
In the long list of things I write about that mankind has done wrong, it’s nice to talk about something we’ve done right.
Enter the California Condor, the largest bird in North America from the vulture family. In 1982 there were only 22 of these birds left in the world and the powers that be decided to make a controversial decision to capture all remaining condors to provide a captive breeding program in order to keep them from going completely extinct. Thirty plus years later the California Condor community has hatched their 1000th chick, born in the wilds of Utah.
Mama is Condor 409; (tag #9) she was hatched in captivity in 2006 at the San Diego Zoo. Papa is Condor 523; (tag # J3) he was hatched in 2009 at The Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, ID. Both birds were released in the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, AZ, Mama in 2008 and Papa in 2016. This is Mama’s second mate, her first died of lead poisoning in 2016. California Condors have one baby every two years. Not exactly a prolific species, but with human intervention they have beaten the odds for now.
There are currently 500 California Condors in existence today. Half of those are happily soaring high in the thermals above Mother Earth, living wilds in Utah, Arizona, California and Northern Mexico.
The skies were almost empty of Condors. It took a gaggle of agencies, biologists, citizens and a roll of the dice to get a program together for a bird that is not known for being pretty, but beautiful enough for some people to care about what happens to them.
No one can predict what future awaits 1000th chick, but he or she will be free to make their bid to either bloom or fade in the wild where they belong thanks to hundreds of dedicated humans. We caused the mass extinction and we also stalled it. We did this right.