I started up the car and
pulled out of the parking area.
It was time to return to my
own nest and its attendant
duties. Regardless of my still
shaking arms, I would return
home ready again to resume
my fathering role. But I’d be
different after this Father’s Day.
Now I knew for sure that I was
the sparrow. Whether I liked it
or not, I couldn’t anticipate life’s
curveballs. I wasn’t in control.
And despite my greatest, most
desperate attempts to protect
and provide for those I love, to
some extent they’ll always be
exposed and vulnerable in an
open field. Life, as beautiful
and complex as it is, is also
ephemeral and precarious.
The meadow slowly disappeared in my rearview mirror.
So, too, did the paralyzing fear
that often accompanies dwelling
on vulnerability. Like nothing
else, recognizing vulnerability
makes one appreciate the present. Because nothing is guaranteed, I would treasure today.
No, I couldn’t protect my kids
forever. But I could embrace
them today. Vulnerability is the
mine that destroyed the meadow.
Now, like the native plants, the
sparrow, and the hawk, I would
reclaim it. a
Eli J. Knapp is a professor of
biology at Houghton College in
Houghton, New York.
these warnings and been especially wary when crossing
through goshawk country. But
now I’d been careless, bordering on disrespectful. Perhaps
it was the tranquility of the
day that had lulled me to sleep.
Tomorrow’s local news headline
flashed before me: “Feather-
brained Father Blinded by Bird.”
Feelings of vulnerability
once again overwhelmed me as
I continued to beat a hapless
retreat. The irony was palpable.
From moments ago empathizing
with the vulnerable sparrow, I
had now become the vulnerable
species. In a blink, my feeling
of species superiority over the
lesser members of the bird world
flipped on its head. In a fury of
paternal rage, the harrier had
knocked me off my lofty perch.
My feet finally found the dirt
road. The harrier made one last
low swoop and then rose up,
giving me an airborne escort all
the way to my car. I fumbled
the door open, kept my eyes
on the skies, and then fell into
the driver’s seat. And then I
laughed. I knew I hadn’t been in
any mortal danger, but I’d been
intimidated and outwitted nonetheless. Fathers of any species,
it then dawned on me, will do
anything to protect their vulnerable offspring—even desperately
winging yourself at others that
outweigh you 150: 1.