It was the middle of the European leg of our backpacking journey when my best friend (and greatest person I know), Nevena, and I visited Switzerland. This particular adventure was a six-month backpacking trip consisting of 16 countries in Europe, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji.
Before we arrived, the extent of my knowledge of Switzerland was that they were neutral, the Swiss Army knife, Lindt chocolate, and the Swiss Alps. I was expecting to fall in love with the fresh savoury chocolate but I wasn’t prepared to fall in love with the entire country and to learn so much from a black bird. The sheer beauty and never-ending mountainous landscape were breathtaking. It is easily in the top five of my favourite countries, and I’ve visited over 30 on six continents. I am determined to one day visit the seventh, Antarctica.
When I think of Switzerland, I picture the mass amount of emerald green mountains (unfortunately, not shown here), the absolute pristine cleanliness everywhere we went, and this black bird flying high over the Swiss Alps, shown above. I believe this is a crow, but if it’s a raven or some other type of bird, I apologize to all bird lovers.
I named her Queen because the one word that was predominant in my mind as I watched her soar around the striking blue sky was “Majestic.” I also, involuntarily, began humming the Beatles’ song, “Free as a Bird,” with the lyrics, “It's the next best thing to be / Free as a bird,” soaring around in my brain. Watching her I couldn’t think of a better thing to be than a stunning black bird spiritedly flying above peak after peak.
Through different teachings and mythologies, birds typically represent freedom, peace, hope, and wisdom. With Queen and this one moment captured in time, I feel all of those things, as well as joy and a sense of playfulness. She never flies in a straight line, and maybe I don’t have to either.
Is Alfred Here?
The birds, at first, caused me to wonder if they were auditioning for Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, The Birds, where Janet Leigh is constantly running from a swarm of ravenous birds. I foolishly opened a peanut butter granola bar package thinking this was a perfect place to have a small picnic and a flock of birds rapidly appeared hovering less than three feet above my head. I learned very quickly to shove that granola bar to the bottom of my backpack and cover my head with my arms. Once they realized there were no tasty treats available and that I was not willing to give up my eyes, they retreated back to the skies.
After the initial fear passed and my heart retreated back to my chest, I started snapping away at these magnificent creatures with my Nikon Coolpix 3100 camera.
Viewing the middle bird, in the photo above, you can just barely see the outline of her beak reflecting the light with her head turned towards me. It also looks like an odd-shaped feather at the end of her right wing, but it’s a fourth bird flying far up in the sky. Things are not always how they appear.
I attempted to make the photo clearer but with my limited skills as a photographer and editor, and moving a few cursors over buttons, such as “Sharpen,” “Light,” and “Colour” in the Photos App on my MacBook, this was the best I could achieve.
This bird was clearly keeping her eye on the prize, patiently waiting for an opportunity to gain some nourishment.
I'm Ready for My Close-Up
Riding the cable car up to the top of Schilthorn, which is in the Bernese Alps of Switzerland, you will reach Piz Gloria, the world's first revolving restaurant with panoramic views of a 2970-metre-high summit. Piz Gloria and Schilthorn became famous for appearing in the 1969 James Bond film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, as the secret lair of the villain, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, and Bond’s getaway by skiing down the mountain.
The message I take from the photo above is that even though you stand alone, you can do so with a 360-degree view of beauty and bliss. All you have to do is open your eyes. That, and even though you’re in the remotest of areas, you can one day become famous by appearing in a film.
Snowball Fight Anyone?
You can’t go to the top of a nearly 3000-metre-high summit and not build a snowman, shown above. Of course, he doesn’t know how close he is to the edge, which is probably why he’s smiling so brightly. And he has some wicked green hair.
The Wildest Creatures Yet
Like the snowfamily above, our time on this earth is fleeting but by being present, open to new experiences, and building upon community and relationships with friends and family, we can experience joy and peace within, while also contributing to those feelings of others. It can sometimes be scary standing on the edge but with the love and support of your tribe, anything can be accomplished. And when need be, develop those wings to fly.
The Highs and the Lows
Life will inevitably bring peaks and valleys but that doesn’t mean we can’t soar our way through learning and discovery. Queen’s path, shown above, is like no other’s, and she charges on happily and with ease. Flying comes naturally for birds but they still had to learn how to fly from their elders.
Tree of Blessed Life
Although the picture shown above has a slightly Alfred Hitchcock feel to it, I love its eeriness mixed with the surrounding beauty. The crooked stark branches are the perfect resting place for the beautiful black birds.
Reliving this experience, another Beatles’ song, “Blackbird,” comes to mind:
“Blackbird fly, blackbird fly / Into the light of a dark black night / Blackbird singing in the dead of night / Take these broken wings and learn to fly / All your life / You were only waiting for this moment to arise.”
To the Black Birds in All of Us
Moments pass me by all the time and I rarely stop to consider them. My whole life I've felt broken and I'm only now learning how to fly with my mended wings. I thought going to Switzerland I may eat some chocolate and learn how to use a Swiss Army knife but the memories and lessons I learned are my Swiss Army knife. They are the tools I can take anywhere I go and they will help me out of some challenging situations with precision and versatility.
I now envision myself as that black bird and invoke her strength, freedom, and grace. And every now and then, I eat some Lindt chocolate to sweeten up my life.
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