Last summer I was struggling with a sadness and hurt I could not seem to get a grip on. My coping skill all through life has been a hard work ethic. If I ever started feeling sorry for myself, or I was dealing with anger or hurt, whatever the case may be, I put myself to work. Hard work. Sometimes to the point of complete exhaustion. There were times in my life this went on for days, weeks, even months. Eventually, I’d wear myself out. And in time, the issue healed. And so it was last summer that I headed out on a hot day dead set on moving a large pile of red dirt that had settled and dried in a huge heap in the middle of our lawn. It was leftover dirt from a previous project. It needed to be moved. Since I had a troubled mind, I decided to tackle the pile of Oklahoma soil in hopes of working through the problem. The longer I toiled, the more worked up I became. Then, all of a sudden, I saw a large shadow sweep over me. I looked up, not immediately locating the source, and then I heard it right next to me! Swooping low, not 50 feet away, wings outstretched and gliding slowly, was a huge vulture! He made a graceful dip, soared straight up above the trees, not flapping his wings at all! All I heard was the whoosh of him passing by! It is common to see vultures soaring above the woods but never so close and low to the ground! It was amazing to watch his graceful flight. I felt adrenaline surge through me! He made another similar low swoop only further away. I marveled at the wingspan on this fellow. I stood there, riveted to my spot at the dirt pile, in complete awe.
I always feel there is a message in confrontations with nature. I ran into the house feeling giddy and began researching vultures online. I conferred with my sis-in-law about what it might mean. I learned that vultures begin flying a few hours after the morning air has warmed, then circle and gain altitude on pockets of rising warm air (thermals). On reaching the top of the thermal, they glide across the sky at speeds of up to 60 mph! Of course they gradually lose altitude doing so, and quickly locate another thermal, rising then gliding, without ever needing to flap. Well, I can tell you fairly quickly the words “Glide and Soar” hit my brain. Here I’d been flapping my wings, wearing myself out silly with this problem when all I needed to do was turn my troubles to the vultures. It was simple as repeating the words, “Glide and Soar” and letting it go. Just a few minutes later my sis-in-law phoned to tell me her thoughts. Vultures are gentle and non-aggressive, and even though their primary diet is the flesh of dead animals, they do not kill their prey. They are one of the greatest recyclers, sanitizers, and environmental cleaners. With that in mind she suggested leaving my current troubles in the capable claws and beaks of the vultures. She felt it was a sign to me… my totem perhaps.
Ever since that day I have had a great respect for my friends, the vultures. I see them here on the ranch. I see them soaring off in the distance when I’m traveling down the road. Sometimes I see them eating lunch alongside the road!! Each time I repeat my mantra, “Glide and Soar” and I think of them cleaning up my problems or worries of the day.
These photographs are not from my personal collection. I’ve tried and failed to capture them in flight with my camera. I’ve never managed to get close enough to photograph one perched on a limb, let alone hear their odd hissing noise (they have no voice box). I suppose I will have to remain happy to have the experience of that blazing hot day where I paid attention to a vulture that dared communicate the message I so desperately needed to hear, “Glide and Soar, and leave the carcass of troubles to me”. My beautiful friend, the vulture… my totem.
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