It won’t be long now. The geese are almost all gone and that means our other birds will soon be back: first, the soaring ospreys with their keening cries and then, a few weeks later, the tiny hummingbirds powered by their precious little wings beating more than fifty times per second. Both of these avian masterpieces are sure signs of spring, nature’s way of telling us that another winter is over; it’s time to move on.
Apparently, size really doesn’t matter to Mother Nature. If Darwin knew what he was talking about—and I believe he did—then the origins of many of our finest species are truly miraculous things. I’ve often wondered that if we all emerged from the same primordial muck, how is it possible that some of us became rhinoceros and some of us became butterflies? The wee wife is more of a creationist than I so this dilemma doesn’t really bother her. God made rhinos on Wednesday and butterflies on Thursday. It’s not a very scientific explanation but at least it’s a damn good yarn that doesn’t leave her puzzling about how all of us came to be.
Of course, the big and little conundrum does not only apply to miracles of creation, however they came about. There are big and little lies; big and little toes; big and little deals or big and little mistakes. Stargazers watch Big and Little Dippers. Should you care to change the adjectives, the same rules still apply: there are creatures great and small; your chances can be fat or slim; we go through thick and thin; boxers can be heavyweights or lightweights and I, for one, would not like to be punched by either. Are your clothes dirty? There are heavy and light loads of laundry and even your washing machine can tell the difference. Now that’s artificial intelligence!
Let’s face it: size is relative. If size really mattered, elephants, not lions, would be kings of the jungle. Mark Twain, who had something worth saying about everything under the sun, knew that what mattered most was not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog. Over here on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, every good waterman knows it’s not the size of the boat that matters but the size of the wave. Finally, for all you fashionistas out there, consider this: it’s not the size you wear, but how you wear your size. Bam! Case closed!
But back to the beginning: ospreys and hummingbirds and, for that matter, every flying thing in between. When you stop to think about it, it’s pretty amazing that birds didn’t need the Wright Brothers to invent flying. Over the millennia, the laws of aerodynamics must have been written by some unseen hand. I suppose the same can be said about things that swim: who needs lungs when you’ve got gills? What about dolphins or whales, you say? They swim but they need air to breathe. And you would be correct: this is indeed a miraculous world!
So just for a moment, let’s put aside big politics and little viruses and what to make for dinner and go out to watch the birds coming home to roost. You’ll be glad you did.
I’ll be right back.
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with a home in Chestertown. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine. Two collections of his essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”) are available on Amazon. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com