A female goldfinch weighs less than an ounce and she is so much part of the sky there’s air in her bones. She never has a moment of thought for her own beauty. I could praise the sharp golds and blacks of the male goldfinch, the show in the flash of his wings, and if she could understand she would probably agree with me: he is eye-catchingly brilliant. But she wouldn’t find anything of meaning in it if I told her she’s rather dull next to him, all muted browns and just a dusting of pollen-yellow around her beak like she’s been enjoying a bouquet too closely.
She is a force unto herself, not an ornament to be hung in a tree, and her own body is a thing which walks the stalks of bachelors’ buttons and hardly causes them to bend. Her flesh and feathers are never less than adequate in form. They could take her anywhere in North America, or at least as far as her seven inches of wings could bear. Her body serves to keep her alive, and if chance and stray cats and the weather are kind enough, it serves to keep her genes alive in the fledglings over whom she crouches late in the summer. If she is unlovely, it is neither her fault nor her concern. She simply is, and that is enough.
Every morning when she wakes, the air and light fill her wings and promise to take her anywhere. She will always live to fulfill her desires, to enjoy the days that offer enough sunshine and water and food, and she will always seek the freedom offered by the open air. Less than an ounce holds her back, but she never takes wing to flee her own life. If she raises young, she will soon let them go: the fruit of her strong body has a cost but the last time she watches her children fly away will not change the course of her life, does not make her appreciate the expanse of the world any less.
And if she has a mate, she will often fly without him. They will share the sky, but her knowledge of self will not change much for his presence or absence. They sing to each other through the tangle of the cosmos stalks, but she switches to the sunflowers without asking his permission or waiting for him to join. She simply knows he will follow or he won’t. Will meet her at the nest or fall prey along his flight, but either way, her life will go on and the sun will still promise to fill her wings.