The New Mexico state bird is the roadrunner, a member of the cuckoo family that can run up to twenty miles per hour across our vast desert landscapes, chasing down dinner in the form of everything from insects and spiders to lizards and even immature rattlesnakes. I’ve always enjoyed seeing roadrunners, whether running along the road or, just the other day, harassing the quail under our birdfeeders in the back yard.
We seldom hear them call out with anything like a song, but they will clack their beaks together in a chattering sound that carries quite a distance. When upset or threatened, they will raise a crest of feathers on the top of their heads, exposing a bright orange spot of skin beside their eyes.
The commuter rail system in central New Mexico is called the Rail Runner in honor of this unique local bird. The train winds its way along the Rio Grande valley between the southern suburbs of Albuquerque and Santa Fe, the state capital. Traveling by Rail Runner is a lovely way to imitate this seemingly earthbound, road-loving creature.
Out on our hike a couple weeks ago, I saw another, much more ephemeral, version of the roadrunner. As we made our way along the trail, my friend looked up at the clouds above us and declared that a roadrunner had taken to the skies. Sure enough, I could easily see the long beak, distinctive feathered crest, and running legs in the clouds above us.
The image has stuck with me. I’ve found myself wondering what this skyrunner has to say to me. Is it as simple as “become a child again and enjoy the shapes made by clouds,” or as profound as “let go of the stuff of earth and fly free in the heavens”? Roadrunners seldom fly; they prefer to walk or run. However, they will fly when they need to, and they construct their nests above ground, often in the safety of our abundant cacti.
Isn’t it the same with us? We can fly free—at least metaphorically—but we usually prefer the “safety” of staying connected with the earth. When it comes to the safety of our children, though, we are often willing to dare things we would otherwise avoid. Of course, the concept of “children” can also be taken metaphorically; whether it’s birthing a book or a painting, a new invention or a new way of doing business, there are times in our lives when we choose, and dare, to fly.
Perhaps that is the message from this skyrunner: don’t be afraid to fly. Don’t be afraid, when the situation warrants it, to leave the safety of earth and spread your wings. Trust in God, trust in the beautiful creature you are, and fly!
When in your life have you dared to fly? Where in your life, right now, might you be called upon to spread your wings and take to the skies?