The Contemplation of Things That Fly

From The Book Of Idle Pleasures edited by Dan Kieran and Tom Hodgkinson

Because we can’t fly we are fascinated by the sight of things that can. I have always loved watching things that appear to be weightless in the air, not just birds and insects, but floating thistledown, autumn leaves, scraps of windblown paper, clouds, balloons and bubbles. Airborn creatures had the same kind of appeal to each of my children. Even when they were babies, lying in their prams, they were very quick to notice a bee or a butterfly or a passing bird, and their suddenly focused eyes would search for whatever it was a long time after it had flown out of sight. When they were older, say, three or four, they tried to emulate the birds by holding bunches of feathers, flapping their arms and jumping up in the air; and a few years later they copied them again by making paper planes in their image and tossing them off the hill behind our house. If one of these caught the updraught and floated away over the trees there was huge excitement, as if a bird’s own magic had got into it. Then the children would flap their arms again and run, leaping, down the hill.

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