conflict running writing

Lesson of the Scissortail

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Image source: Birds in Central Oklahoma

People who don’t live in the “heartland” may not know that we aren’t kidding about that whole “wind whipping down the plains,” thing. Wind alone has removed trampolines and lawn furniture from patios across Oklahoma. The first time I heard a weatherman use the term “gustnado,” I thought he was making it up. He was not making it up.

When I run on a particularly windy day, I think the same thing. I think I would rather run in cold or heat or rain than in the blasting wind. While it may be tough to take the first step out the door in the bitter cold, I know I’ll warm up quickly. Running in the dull heat makes me feel tough. Rain won’t slow me town or rub the skin on my face raw, like the wind can. You can’t fight the wind.

Near the end of a run recently, I ran along a quiet path into the wind, a feeling similar to trying to walk up the down elevator. Getting nowhere but tired. I saw a scissortail flycatcher leave a swaying bough and stretch its wings into the air, aiming for forward flight.

He stalled there, seeming to be suspended on the stream of air, immoveable, pushed up against an invisible, impenetrable wall. He bobbed a few times but otherwise, remained aloft and still. I could sense his frustration, as I was doing the same thing myself, pushing into this unseen force. I twisted my neck as I ran slowly past, curious.

He tried three different times to find a way through, or into, the breeze, to get where he wanted to go. Three times, he failed. Finally, I thought he gave up as he twisted to the left. I sagged for him. But in seconds, I realized, when I saw him alight on a nearby fence, he had not surrendered, but tried a different tack. When he tipped his hollow, fingerlike bones into the air, he caught an undercurrent. His body lifted, thrust forward, and he landed at his destination.

I ran on, into the wind, forcing my legs to move, to fight against the weather I am incapable to change. When I made the turn at the bridge, back into the shelter of houses and shops which broke up the full on blasts, I could regain my original pace, ease back into a groove and get myself home.

I want to be like the bird. How do you run into the wind?

2 Comment

  1. Besides being simply amazed that runners can concentrate on anything other than putting one foot in front of the other (that’s all I could do when I ran), I was immediately captured by the image of the scissor-tail and your wonderful metaphor.

    I lived in North Texas for ten years and scissor-tailed flycatchers never failed to invoke wonder and praise. I could sit (not run) for an hour and marvel at how they master the elements.

    How do you run into the wind? You don’t. Like the flycathcher you must first surrender to the current and then learn its ways. Our heavy, marrow-filled bones are still no match for the forces beyond our control. But there is wisdom and grace in surrender, and later comes the revelation that surrender is also a way through to your destination.

    1. I find them, and most birds, fascinating. When I was a kid, it was the clearest picture to me of creation doing as it was bid, and delighting Him. I longed to be a bird who simply delighted God by flying. Then I realized that’s what we do…but that took me a long time to know.

      Again, Ray, you have such a way with words, distilling them down and finding one more nugget. The marrow filled bones!

      And you are right, of course, you can run into the wind, but it takes a wise person to surrender.

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