First Flights

First Flights

A little bird wobbled to the edge of her nest. It was a European stonechat. Numerous other birds peeped at her through tree branches. It was time for her first flight. In front: the vast, open sky. A welcoming freedom; an unsettling loneliness. Behind: the reassuring eyes of her parents, the cheering calls of friends, the comfortable warmth of company. The stonechat would have retreated into her nest if an unexplained power were not compelling her to fly. With a buoyant chirrup, she leapt into the air, flapping her wings as if in a dance.

She flew long and fast. The bird exulted in the strength of her wings. She beat them as if she would churn the air itself. She imagined how her parents would puff up with pride. She wanted all the birds to see how well she could fly. The stonechat looked around to see how the other birds were reacting to her first flight, but she saw no one. 

She had flown far away from her nest, from the trees that had sheltered her as a chick, from all the ease of familiarity. The bird called out in desperation, but no friendly chirp answered her cries. She realized that it was her family, friends, and relatives—their entire community of birds—that had been the wind beneath her wings. 


The stonechat flew to the ground in a frenzy, scared of the open sky. She swept into the tall grasses with relief and latched on to the first stem that she saw. She clung to the stem as if it were the home that had prepared her for flight and looked about for the slightest sign of life.

Before her, the morning melted to a topaz brilliance. Sky and earth merged into a dusty golden haze. The stems and grasses rustled lightly, whispering reassurances to the little bird. The stem on which the stonechat perched swayed gently, shaking off her fears.

She slackened her hold of the stem and gradually slid up, every step an assurance of her Self. The conviction that she could not find in the company of so many other birds, she found in being by herself. That moment of golden solitude gave the bird another first flight. Her spirits soared as she anchored herself in the silence within her. Now, with renewed enthusiasm, she was poised for even greater flights.

Photographs by: Jignesh Minaxi

Location: Dhikala, Jim Corbett National Park

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