The Gifts of the Vulture

Here on this part of Earth it's almost spring and there are lots of animals on the move whether they are in mating season or already nesting or feeding young. And in this part of the world, there are many humans. In this day and age, humans around means roads and cars. All of this adds up to opossums, raccoons, squirrels, birds of many varieties, foxes, even deer who end up hit by cars, their bodies left on or by the side of the road. Where there are dead bodies, there are vultures, the carrion eaters of the world. Here we have turkey vultures and black vultures. Both are magnificent creatures with giant wingspans and featherless heads. They walk about rather well for birds of such size and have a call that is like a raspy dog bark. When Dixie, my dog pal, and I are walking and come upon some vultures by their meal, there is always a fascinating interplay of ancient history. Vultures are old birds in the greater scheme of things. Dixie, canine descended from wolves, starts reading the air by nose. And her eyes are focused on any movement. Vultures tend to walk-hop a short distance away as we are heading toward them, then once we're closer they may use their wings to move a little farther away or actually fly off. And somewhere in this dance, the vultures often make this bark sound. I will never forget the first time Dixie was close to a vulture and the vulture barked. Here is a creature dog sized even if not particularly dog shaped making a dog sound. Dixie paused and tilted her head and just soaked in information. Even years later, they are still just as interesting when they bark. It's as though they are speaking a language that sounds just like dog, but somehow isn't. It makes me wonder if they could understand each other with just a slight tilt of reality as we know it. I believe it's Claude Swanson who theorizes that our reality is like a tissue thin piece of paper in a giant stack of tissue thin pieces of paper of other realities. All these realities are very close and perhaps even easily accessible. For all I know, Dixie is accessing another reality with that head tilt of her's. While vultures are commonly thought of as symbols of death, they are really much stronger symbols of cycles and rebirth. They do not kill their food, they eat what has already been killed so they are not even that close to the act of death. They are recyclers. They take the dead and transform it into energy to sustain their own lives. We humans could learn a lot from them. From their ability to soar for long periods of time on whatever winds appear, to their ability to maintain their place in the cosmos via a spiraling of cycles of rebirth. Watching a vulture take off from the ground with powerful wing flaps shoving the air out of the way for lift off is amazing. Watching them tearing into their meal with sharp beaks while balancing their large bodies on their two feet is amazing. And watching them soaring and soaring and soaring, I can watch them for hours. They teach me the wisdom of creation when I see them eat. They teach me grace when I see them lift off the earth. They teach me to soar on the winds that are available to me now. And they take me to distant realms in the beats of their wings. For I believe there are peeks into other dimensions in the wingbeats of birds. So when I see vultures on wing, standing tall in old snags, or hunkered down by a meal, I greet them and thank them for their gifts.