The Albatross

The Albatross is a remarkable animal. It has the longest wingspan of any bird, often reaching over 11 feet, and it will use this to ride the ocean winds, gliding for hours without resting. Since flying is so easy for them, an Albatross can travel more than 10,000 miles at a time, surviving these trips by living on a diet of school fish and squid, and the ability to drink seawater.

Because of this incredible ability to go such great distances, they have been known to travel millions of miles during the course of their life, which incidentally, can last over fifty years.

Really, over 50 years!

I’m not just making that up so it jives with the title of the blog. One Albatross on Midway Atoll was tagged by wildlife researchers in 1956 and is still alive and kicking today. I’ll let you do the math How old she is today, big numbers make my head hurt.

Yup, seeing an Albatross fly is a spectacular sight, but have you ever seen an Albatross trying to take off?

It’s ugly.

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Whether they’re on land or water, the struggle to get airborne is almost painful to watch. Because of their size and enormous wingspan, it is impossible for them to take off without a strong wind. The very thing that makes it so easy for them to fly, is the reason getting in the air can be so difficult.

In order for them to take off, they have to face into the wind and begin to flap their wings, while moving their feet as fast as they can to propel their bodies to a speed where they can achieve lift off. During this process, it’s not uncommon to see them stumble, trip and fall, sometimes landing face first as the momentum of their bodies exceeded how fast their feet can move. 

But they don’t stop. They keep pushing forward, flapping and running, stumbling and tripping, falling and getting back up. But finally they get going so fast the the wind gets under their wings and just when it looks like they will never be successful… they are up and in the air.

Now it’s a whole different story. Once they actually get airborne, they glide effortlessly through the sky, barely needing to flap their wings at all. They play with the wind as if it blows exclusively for them, and they dance though the air like they were born flying. Without a doubt, an Albatross in flight may possibly be one of the most beautiful things you could ever witness in nature.

Years ago, while I was on a ship off the coast of South Africa, I watched these birds for hours. A large flock of Albatrosses had found a school of fish and they were in the process of getting dinner. In order to catch the fish, they would fold their wings into their bodies and dive into the water, often times from incredible heights. Of course, once they emerged from the water, with or without the fish, the arduous task of gaining flight would begin. Undaunted, the bird would begin this task. Flapping until his feet could clear the water, falling on his face and briefly going under but struggling to get back up. Pushing himself harder and faster, never quitting the effort to keep moving forward (see what I did there… moving forward? I had to work that in somewhere). And just when I thought he would never make it… Bam! Airborne and beautiful!

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The memories of this still stick in my mind, not only of how easy they could fly, but how hard they worked to get back in the air again. It sometimes seemed to me like it wasn’t worth the effort but what were their options?  If they stayed in the air they wouldn’t eat, and if they stayed in the water, something would eventually eat them. So I guess they didn’t have much choice.

I tell all of this to you not to impress you with my vast knowledge about seabirds of the southern hemisphere, but because lately, I consider myself a lot like the Albatross. Not in a physical manner of course,  or that I too can live past 50 years (there’s the reference I pointed out earlier). No, it’s more about the way they struggle to take off.

So many times I’ve said I was going to get back in shape, and made attempts to get going. I’ve posted stuff on this blog like I was attacking not just surviving, that I was back in the saddle, and we need to keep moving forward. Dozens of times I’ve started out and dozens of times I’ve stumbled and fell, leaving my seven readers wondering “when are we going to start to see some results?”

We’ll, here’s where I’ve learned my lesson. Some folks are like a rocket being fired off into space. Folks like that make the decision to take off and Boom! They are launched into the sky.

Me, I’m like the Albatross.

I run and stumble, all the while I keep moving my feet and flapping my wings.  To others it looks like I’ll never get off the ground, but just like my new found spirit animal, I’ll never stop.

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The look of determination.

I know I’ll be successful because like the Albatross knows he’ll eventually get airborne, I know I too will eventually get where I want to be. And unlike a rocket that runs out of fuel and tumbles to the earth,  I will soar for a long, long time.

So when you see me post about how I’m back in the saddle, or I haven’t given up, but you haven’t seen me post any results, don’t worry, I’m still trying to get airborne. But once I do…. Look out baby! I’m going to be beautiful!

And if you’re like me, welcome to team Albatross! Keep your legs moving and keep flapping your wings. You’ll be right up in the sky with me, because the Albatross doesn’t fly alone.

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