By Ben Greenlee
When I first left Kentucky and moved to the Dakotas I collected whole crow feathers. Whole meaning perfectly intact, no break in the shimmery black barbs and no weird coagulant rimming the point of the quill. There seemed to be hundreds leafing the ground, as if an entire species had castoff their identifiable plumage in one great shake. Of course, there were the diseased-looking feathers, too, chewed and broken and cow-licked, half stuck in the brittle grass, pirouetting on their one sick leg in the unrelenting prairie wind. I only kept the darlings, the real lookers.
I placed them in a coffee-can on a high shelf in my living room. Each new addition slid next to the others like stacked knives, like a wing slowly re-knitting itself. They seemed exotic to me then, something I shouldn’t hold or have access to, an artifact that had touched both storm and pure blue sky, a second skin.
During that same period I labored over a misunderstood saying that thumbed me like a birthmark: No matter where you go, there you are. There’s something like an anchor in those words, followed by a desperate need to break loose and glide away.
Flight, such a human dream. Each of us, perhaps, believing clouds are different everywhere else but here. That all we need is new weather.
As I look at that shelf now, in a different home, a different state, I realize the coffee-can isn’t even half full, that there’s dust on the wing, that there are no more darlings, that I’m as unmoored and searching as I have ever been, and yet, somehow, that’s just fine.
What I’m trying to say is, forgive yourself.