Taking Flight

Árdscoil Na Trionóide, Rathstewart, Athy, Co Kildare, Kildare,

Rain drops of hope fell gently from the grey sky. The air was fresh and new now, innocent of pollution and despair. Thirsty plants drank their fill and the familiar din of the wren returned. He had not heard her voice for awhile. Nobody had. The battle had taken its toll on Mother Nature, it will take some time for her to recover and return to her usual vibrant self. On a hill in the far meadow, an old oak tree is hosting a visitor. They accompany each other with a comfortable silence. The wren had now perched herself on the tree branch and sang with all her soul. The visitor enjoyed listening to her song of sorrow. He closed his eyes and opened his ears to her melody. He stole a breath of air filling his weak lungs with much needed oxygen. He leaned back further on the tree so that his head was supported. He was too weak to hold it up any longer. The rain continued to hit the leaves of the old oak, like a drummer would play a beat. It was like he was attending nature’s concert as he continued to listen to the wren and the rain. The scorched bark of his host provided excellent shelter, while allowing him to look out at the once beautiful landscape of Ireland. He could remember clearly how tranquil Éire used to look. A stream of the clearest water had raced gracefully downhill, dancing over the pebbles before joining the river Barrow. The man used to swim there with his sister and his older brother John. They were out blackberry picking first before racing across the undulating land of the floodplain. Their stained hands raised in the air as they tried to see who could jump the highest and grab a leaf off the crooked tree. John always won. The man had always felt like he was taking flight when he jumped, he always tried to reach his arms up further in hope of making that feeling last. he is not a child anymore and life has grown to an almost impossible feat. That tree is gone now, broken in two when the bomb dropped. The man’s hands are not stained in rich blackberry juice now, but rather something else. he has grown up. Joined the army, became one of their best pilots. He didn’t need to jump anymore. He remembers how his father had always told him that “taking flight felt like everlasting freedom”. He was of course speaking literally, he had been a pilot too. His father was never one for affection. He was hard working, spending every last second of his retirement on the farm. The man had watched his father work his life away until he was brittle boned with arthritis in every joint. The man and his brother undertook the burden of working the land, while their sister helped their mother to care for the old man and prepare dinner. The man believes now that his sister will have to take on the farm. He doesn’t think he will ever see the home place ever again. She must take flight spiritually, like he did. Advance higher and higher. Explore her meaning like a pilot exploring the clouds, like he did, in more ways than one. He had always been weak, intellectually but his mother, who had softer and more encouraging words would always say ” it doesn’t matter if you aren’t as smart as the others pet. You are special in other ways. Be like your Da and hop in your own special plane. Take flight and be free love”. She would wipe the tears off his small face, place both hands on each of his rosy, freckled cheeks and gently encourage him to look up at the cumulus clouds. “You’ll be there one day pet. Now go help your brother milk the cattle before your father gets back” she would coo. The boy would look at her and smile a toothy grin. This is how it was. Every time he was upset his mother would hug him and pinch his cheeks, his father would tell him to ‘be a man’ before ruffling his hair. How he wished for his family to be with him now. The singing wren had gone on her journey and the rain had subsided. He could smell the fresh Earth scent, however he could also smell the Earth’s destruction. The once flat floodplain he had once raced upon was uneven with mounds of displaced dirt. The stream was cut off by a splintered tree, no longer clear. Dirtied by man’s greed for power. Soldiers were sprawled in unnatural positions, dead. Gone. No longer able to see the light of hope or the darkness of the destruction they helped cause. Some men lay faced down as if they were ashamed of what they had done. Though it is not their fault. They had been lied to, like the man. Shafted into fighting a worthless fight. Giving their life and for what? Freedom? Power? He was alone now surrounded by the foolish and the greedy. Surrounded by land that reminds him of what he lost. He didn’t have time to think of what he has lost now however. His journey is almost over, quicker than he expected honestly. On a hill in the far meadow, an old oak tree is hosting a visitor……The rain drops of hope have stopped sprinkling this hopeless land. It has moved onto another plain. The man lets tears flow slowly down his face. He closes his eyes forever…… They accompany each other in comfortable silence……He is just another lifeless soldier now. A nameless body among many. His soul has taken flight, taking a new journey, but not without its costs. On a hill in the Far meadow, an old oak tree says goodbye.