by Melanie

An origin myth, republished in honor of our son. Today is his graduation day. He will receive his wings as a pilot for the United States Air Force.


Sky dominated my view, expansive and welcoming. Flyers found air space at varying levels, like planes directed by hidden air traffic controllers. Swooping low, barn swallows performed touch-and-go exercises. Higher, clouds of blackbirds undulated almost across the horizon. They signaled cooler weather coming, but it was not fall yet. For now, clear, indirect light silhouetted the birds against pale blue.

At ground level, thistles reached upward, tough and tall. Goldenrod, flowering heads brushed lengthwise, reminded me of ancient brooms, worn down from years sweeping the stone hearth. Queen Anne’s lace had curled into tight clusters, pregnant with seeds waiting to spill forth.

Pelicans were back, flying so high, wingtips reflecting the late afternoon sun. They looked like confetti drifting slowly in a circle, until they wheeled and changed direction, moving closer in view. For me, the pelicans’ appearance always seemed like a gift. Now, with such perfect timing, the pelicans must be a good omen.

I needed a good omen. The year was difficult in many ways, full of extremes, joy marred by illness and tragedy. The cancer and anorexia were merely death threats. The murders were unbearable and incomprehensible, tearing the fragile scrim, the illusion of safety.

I flew, too. As with the pelicans above me, it was easier to fly than walk, my body awkward and unbalanced on the ground. Like Icarus, I used my wings to escape. Unlike him, I flew low, skimming the rooftops and crowns of trees. The view from above, in motion, removed details I needed to ignore. Instead I could focus, just on moving forward, and then on landing safely.

The sun shifted and blackbirds and pelicans moved on. As the leaves curled and fell, as dew on the dried maize reflected morning light, death hovered around us. The sky became broader still, opening through stark bare branches.

Waiting, I still flew. Crows bossed during the day. In the evenings they settled, scores in stands of trees, chattering odd noises like rusty hinges.

I posed no threat to them, did not disturb them from their roosts, even while I prepared to make my own. Landing, nesting, I had flown past the sorrows of the summer, though they were visible to me when I turned.

Flying snow, flurrying, melting; the fall did not readily concede to death. The rising sun brightened the sky, warming the earth again. And on that day, I gave birth to a flyer.

Fledged now, he flies for us as well as himself. Soon he will fly like the pelicans, broad wingspan carrying him higher, beyond view. Leaving and returning, a good omen.


13 thoughts on “Flyers

  1. shoreacres

    What a proud day for you, and such an accomplishment for your son. We’ve watched the same process in our family, as the toddler who fell in love with his daddy’s “redredairplane” never fell out of love, until he was landing on carriers in the Red Sea. May all your son’s flights be safe ones!

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      How wonderful! Our son was crushed his first cognizant Christmas when he asked for a BIG truck. We got him the biggest Tonka truck we could find. But he really wanted a *BIG!* truck! and was so disappointed.

      Now he’ll get his big truck, flying C-17s. 🙂

      Thanks so much.

  2. farmquilter

    Congratulations to you and your son for his accomplishment!! It is an interesting conundrum to be the parent of a child in the military…proud as proud could be of their choices and service, and heart-wrenchingly terrified when they go off to perform their duties in a far off country. Clear skies and my God speed!

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Thank you. He graduated at the beginning of October with his wings. There is still one more big segment of training to go before he is flying regularly, but that will come this year.


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