SO awesome…

If anyone were to say to me, ‘the future is now’, I would look at him like a house centipede.  However, the crazy would be right – I have documented proof.  I don’t currently own a car, which has been a bit of trouble in the past.  But now, I’m glad of the wait.  Now by the time I have a) the $$$ and will/need to buy a car and b) my pilot’s license, these things will be actually affordable.  Ahh, just thinking about it gives me delicious weeblies all over!

Chicken Little: Has the sky already fallen?

I was thinking about pigeons earlier today, and that got me thinking about thier more land-bound, edible counterparts:  The chicken.  Now chickens, as we know, cannot fly for any great distance.  They can gracefully soar out of pine tress and down hillsides, if given the opportunity.  I’ve seen them do it.  And when startled, they do flap thier wings and glide about in the air a bit, just like pigeons.  But they don’t migrate – longer flights are impossible for them.  In fact, the longest recorded distance flown by a chicken is 301.5 feet.

Given that chickens have wings, and do have the ability to fly at least for short distances, it is a valid hypothesis that chickens at one time were able to fly.  Given that chickens have been domesticated for thousands of years, it’s difficult to say for certain.  However, I did a bit of research on the chicken’s supposed precursor, the Red Junglefowl, to attempt to shed a little light on the mystery.  While most documented cases of flight are short in duration and distance, similar to the chicken’s, I remained unsure if this was due to nature or as a result of early domestication. True, both are members of the pheasant family, who are primarily ground feeders.  But does that mean they couldn’t fly, or wouldn’t migrate?  My limited time at work did not give me the chance to find out.

Still, the idea of domestication forcing a species to give something up intrigued me.  Generally we see domestic selection as good – it’s selection for the characteristics we want.  But in all cases, something must be lost.  In addition, in our own lives, the word ‘domestic’ has negative connotations.  There’s ideas of servants, ‘the domestics’.  There’s houswives, also seen as domestic.  And yet with animals, this does not quite ring true – but then again, we don’t expect to perceive animals as on par with ourselves.

It makes me wonder…what are the things we have selected for as a society?  What skills, or natural abilities and talents, or personality traits have we allowed to grow and thrive?  And at what cost?  With this selection, what has been lost?  Can we still fly?  Were we ever really able to?

Pigeon herding

Of course I left my wonderful SUPA-cool camera at home again today, so you guys will just have to bear with me and deal with the slightly crappy shots from my phone.  Trees through sculptureSorry.  I am doomed to have my camera only when the world around me is ugly.

Today I had to deliver some ‘important papers’ to main campus and on my way back, saw something most interesting.  Two pigeons were perched on a rooftop.  As I watched, one of them dived off, just falling like a rock towards me, then opening his wings into a glide.  It made me wonder, are pigeons ever afraid?  They are pretty fat birds.  Or does instinct just give them an infinite trust that their wings will keep them from splatting on the ground?  The whole thing was just beautiful – the arc of the pigeon’s wings, the sunlight on iridescent feathers, the display of fearlessness.  I wish i’d caught it on tape.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  Pigeons are ugly birds.  They waddle, they eat garbage and they barely keep themselves clean.  Even for someone like me, who enjoys chasing them and seeing how close I can get before they take off or how many of them I can get going in the same direction, I wouldn’t want to actually touch one.  I don’ think they’d make a very good pet, or be very soft to touch.  They probably carry lots of noxious diseases, too.

Sun and TreesBut in this case, all that was beside the point.  For a moment, this mangy flying rat was something more than a city scavenger.  And for that transformation, I’m grateful, both for the beauty of the moment and for the potential it imparts to me to be better than myself, if only for a moment.