some random thought patterns coming together into a V formation shaped post today…

I’ve been thinking about renewal and new starts. how we decide that the time is right to make a change. which brought to my mind a David Whyte poem about migrating geese… of which more, later.

one of the things I have been realising is that I find change and handling transitions easier in a community, whether it was an NCT group when I first had children, or a running group, or an online sober community. I’ve written previously that I’ve come to see that for me, connection is a vital component of change.

looking for images of flying geese brought up lots of websites with explanations of why they fly in a V formation, many of them with parallels in our soberverse. for example, flying in formation reduces the energy required by around 70%. and the geese rotate the task of leading as they tire, in the same way that we learn from others both ahead and those coming after us in our sober journey. but these are not the important facts for me, coming from a childhood environment where asking for help or working in community was not something that was ever modelled for me.

the key fact I learnt, as a relative novice to working with others towards change, was that birds don’t learn to fly in formation from the older birds, as has often been assumed. in this study, by Steven Portugal, where a flock of Northern Bald Ibis were taught to fly in a v-formation by a guy in a microlight, they discovered that each bird traces the same path that the bird in front did through the air. and how do the birds work out how to do this? according to the article:

How do they manage? No one knows. The easiest answer is that they’re just watching the bird in front and beating their wings accordingly. They might be using their wing feathers to sense the air flow around them. Or they could just be relying on simple positive feedback. “They’re flying around, they hit a spot that feels good, and they think: Oh, hey, if I flap like this, it’s easier,” says Portugal.

Whatever the answer, it’s clear that this isn’t a skill the ibises are born with. When they first followed the microlight, they were all over the place. It took time for them to learn to fly in a V… and that adds one final surprise to the mix.

“It was always assumed that V-formation flight was learned from the adult birds,” says Portugal. “But these guys are all the same age and they learned to fly from a human in a microlight. They learned [V-formation flying] from each other. It’s almost self-taught.”

we can learn these skills from one another, folks, wherever we’ve come from. isn’t life marvellous?

and here’s something else marvellous, too – that David Whyte poem.

The Journey

Above the mountains
the geese turn into
the light again

painting their
black silhouettes
on an open sky.

sometimes everything
has to be
enscribed across
the heavens

so you can find
the one line
already written inside you.

Sometimes it takes
a great sky
to find that

first, bright
and indescribable
wedge of freedom
in your own heart.

Sometimes with
the bones of the black
sticks left when the fire
has gone out

someone has written
something new
in the ashes
of your life.

You are not leaving,
even as the light
fades quickly now,
you are arriving.

hoping you find ‘that first, bright and indescribable wedge of freedom in your own heart’ today.

Prim xx

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