Florida Time Forgot

Hard Landing

I've seen you in awkward, then graceful stride for a score of days. Looking ahead, I thought you would continue to mature, then raise a family of your own. You faced many dangers -- bobcats, coyotes, hawks, alligators. It never occurred to me that we might be your greatest threat.

Even now, as I gaze down on your crumpled, lifeless body, 4-wheeled boxes of steel zoom past me at speeds you couldn't comprehend. Your passing was fresh, perhaps a few hours ago. Fire ants already feast on the quill of your feathers, still coated in a crimson liquid from a crossing that was as symbolic as it was fatal. Strange that my guilt outweighs my sorrow. I may not have been present but I did this to you. My lifestyle. My sense of hurry. My values that seem so value-less at a moment like this.

Across the road in the pasture, I see your sibling with mom and dad. They appear to be feeding as if nothing happened. Do they know? Did they hear the roar of rubber on pavement as the metal beast closed in for the kill? Did they try to sound an alarm or realize the moment of impact? Do they have a form of mourning? Or is this it, to continue with life when you've no other choice?

As I leave, I check my speedometer. A human pace. My world demands that I get there now.

For a few minutes, I refuse to give in. I slow to half the speed limit until a line of cars builds behind me and I can tell there is tension building. Then once again, I join my kind. Guilt gives way to recognizing responsibilities. I must earn a living. I must provide for my loved ones. I must think of my family.

But how far back, I wonder, were you my immediate family? How long did it take for us to separate, one on land and one in the air? When did we cease to look out for each other?

Highway traffic reminds me that now is not the time for such thoughts.