Gaylord Herald Times, MI
Feb 14 2005
Hindsight – Migration: a ritual of survival
Birds seem to live in a different world: somewhere between land and
sky, a wing’s reach away from touching stars. Their shadows command a
presence on glassy waters.
They travel through a landscape I only dream about.
They possess an innocence, or maybe a purity, because they are
capable of making the impossible, possible.
Together they can mass into one giant storm cloud, become the crests
of ocean waves or the islands of marsh lands, or create the illusion
that the sky is falling.
By flapping wings hard enough, stretching neck and body skyward,
paddling webbed feet, they can walk on water.
They soar innocently through soot, above the sounds of machinery,
about the complexity of modernity. Their legs tucked tightly against
their tails, their wings curve in perfect angles to create flight.
They fly above the foolishness of man-made maps where invisible lines
marking a country’s borders mean nothing to them.
They enact the ritual of migration out of survival, but they burst
through early morning vapor, waving to the land below with a promise
to return to this place.
My grandmother made no such promise when she left Armenia with her
I imagine her at the age of 4, standing in front of her home, waving
goodbye. The images come like slow motion stills from an old black
and white movie.
In my daydreams, her hair is tousled into kiddy curlycues. She is
standing in her prettiest dress. She is holding her father’s hand.
Everything has that yellow tint to it.
Shortly after her migration to America, the Armenian genocide began.
Her village was targeted, pillaged and destroyed by the Turks.
She escaped this crude persecution, where so many Armenians were
shot, left to starve, and even pushed by the thousands into a cave
whose entrance was guarded and then erased by scrub set on fire.
They were left to suffocate.
My grandmother and her family were left with the fragments of their
They faced the awkwardness of being foreign, the humility of having
nothing, the loneliness of starting over for survival. A newborn
chick puffed with down feathers stands at the edge of a cliff; below
it, an enormous pool of water. It doesn’t stand peering over the
edge, doesn’t look at the hundreds of feet between sky and sea. It
doesn’t hesitate to jump.
The newborn chick begins flapping its wings in the hopes of flying,
somehow instinctively knowing that flight is equated with survival.
It works tirelessly to try and catch a wave of wind. But it smacks
into the surface of the water.
It will no doubt try again.
Who else is that fearless?