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Artwork by Joanna Chen, staff artist

By Joel Hur

When I was born, it felt like I had burst into the world. The first memory I can recall is of me banging my body against a thin surface. I broke through that barrier, and was exposed to sounds and smells I had never felt before. The constant chirping of the cicadas and the fresh smell of dew and lush plants. Of course, I couldn’t see at the time, so I couldn’t actually look at the world around me. But I could hear the cries of my mother, the warmth of her body. I cried out in pain. My skin hurt, it felt like it was burning against the new world I was in. For the next few days, I stayed in the nest, waiting for food from my mother, with my beak cracked open. I heard the familiar sounds of regurgitation. I mostly didn’t really think about it. The slimy paste that my mother passed into me filled my stomach. I ceased my piercing cries of hunger for the next few minutes. Then suddenly, my eyelids creaked open. I finally could see! The light of the sun disoriented me for a second. I could see the thin branches of the nest, with dried mud caked over to keep it all together. I blinked against the breeze and turned my neck to my mother. She looked so beautiful and graceful in the sky. My eyes widened in astonishment. I looked in wonder and turned my neck as she curved her flight against the wind. Her black sharp feathers preened against the wind as her wings stretched across the vast sky. Her body glided and twirled around the tall trees. I knew in that moment that my goal was to be as graceful and to fly in the vast sky. Her cries sliced through the forest air.

Over the next weeks, my mother took care of me and kept me warm with her body warmth as my own body warmth developed. Soon, I didn’t need her to shield me from the wind anymore. I slowly grew small pricks on my skin, which transformed into mini soft feathers, which provided some extra warmth. I almost tried to flap my way off the nest, but my mother caught me and shook her head. It wasn’t time yet. I looked down at the ground below with anticipation. The wet rocks surrounded my tree, laying on the rough dirt ground, with bits of wood and leaves mixed into it. I didn’t know at the time, but mixed in with that yearning, there was also caution and a bit of fear. I made it a solid goal to fly. I practiced in the safety of the nest, flapping my meager wings as if I was flying. I practiced gliding, as my mother cocked her head sideways as she looked at me. I wasn’t like other babies, I wasn’t too needy and I made strange motions, as if I was already thinking of flying. Of course, she didn’t think much of it, but in truth, I really was yearning for flight. Whenever the other baby birds played, I never particularly yearned to be with them or to play with them. My mind was more focused on flying. I found the others distracting and a bit annoying. Tweeting and crying nonstop. It made my ears bleed. The weeks passed by fast, and I started to have the urge to pluck my feathers off of me. I was scared and consulted my mother, but she assured me that it was natural, and that you should just yield to the instinct.

She went out to bring me small insects to eat. I gazed at the adult birds flying in the air with grace, cawing and singing. I closed my eyes and felt the wind as I imagined me gliding in the air. I heard the flapping of feathers and opened my eyes to see my mother had come back with wriggling insects in her beak. I feasted that day in deep thought, worrying about if I could even fly when it would be time. I didn’t get much sleep that night. One month turned into two months, which turned into four months, which turned into seven, which eventually turned to almost 12 months. I practiced and prepared flying while new feathers grew back. Though after the 1 year mark, I finally noticed the difference between my old feathers and these new feathers. I realized these feathers looked more stiff…and more like Mother’s feathers. The black sheen, unlike the soft counterparts I exhibited on my body before. They were flexible when maneuvering your flight, but not fragile against the wind. I was excited and told my mother. She allowed me to finally try out flying.

I hopped over to the edge of the nest and took a deep breath through my nostrils. I closed my eyes and exhaled. I opened my eyes with a strong look. The air felt cool, as if the wind was waiting for my success. I felt a draft pick up and I jumped off the nest in high hopes! I dove through the air, towards the ground. I spread my newly made wings, but I continued to fall. My steely determination faltered and changed to disoriented panic. The world blurred into an ugly mess. The rocks seemed to get bigger and bigger as I fell to my doom. I cried out in fear, and my mother dove for me. She caught me with her mouth and I was dragged up back into the nest. My brain recovered from the shock, and soon turned into shame and embarrassment.

I spent the next few days by myself, not interacting with my mother, sitting by myself with a broken morale. Then, my mother walked over to me with a sad, but hopeful look in her eyes. She met my eyes and gently laid a small soft feather that had fallen from my body when I had tried jumping off prematurely. It reminded me of what I had been doing my entire life. Doing what for what. I had been training from the minute I was born, to fly. I hardened my spirit and regained my steely gaze. I immediately got up and thanked my mother for doing this for me. I started training again with my old goal in mind yet again. After a few weeks, I once came back to the place I had jumped off. I looked at the ground with intent. I spread my wings and leaped off. My wings flapped, while first failing, but then catching the wind. I glided through the air, eyes full of happiness. I flew through the air. I cried, and my voice was thrown against the strong wind of the world. I yelled my mother one last farewell. She looked up in pride. I closed my eyes and felt the gentle breeze on my feathers. The feathers on my wings shaked with the wind. I shifted my wings to curve and I took off towards the sun, in flight.


Contributor's Note: Joel Hur is an 11-year-old student who enjoys reading. He loves anime and likes to go on walks.

The Incandescent Studio Blog Series

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