Collecting bottles, tossing leftovers, taking out the garbage
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The Lord of the Wind was born unconscious of himself, during a storm that shook his egg from its nest and flung it from the tallest tree on the highest cliff downwind to the valley floor. It landed with a splash in the stream below, and was carried to a sandy spot on a small finger of land that pressed itself into the water. There, when the storm was at its height, with cracking thunder, amid streaks of pale lightning, the egg broke open. The soaked, scared occupant blinked and blinked again, looking for shelter. The lightning hurt his eyes and the thunder drove him up an embankment, where he tumbled into a sweet-smelling nest of grass under an overhanging protective bush. He at once fell to sleep.
Upon awakening, he found himself beak to bill with a large white duck who had been demanding politely the origins, inclinations, and declarations of the present inhabitant of her nest. Scanning his short memory quickly, he admitted to not knowing much about any of those things. Though taken aback, the duck examined the newcomer minutely and finally reported that he was unknown to her. His nose was much too sharp, his feet much too large, and his eye much too piercing to be familiar or even comfortable to her. Thus closing the subject, the duck returned to the stream, waddled in, and paddled away. The small creature was left alone to ponder this news. It was disheartening to realize how lonely he felt and how difficult it was going to be, discovering who he was. Besides, he was hungry and thirsty.
Taking heart from the warmth of the sun and the music of the stream, the creature made his way awkwardly back to the shore. Drinking deeply of the water, he felt strong enough to set out on his journey. He started upstream, stumbling often. Looking down at his feet, he saw them to be large, with sharp talons. But they were definitely not made for swimming and not much better for walking.
He moved slowly and was concentrating intently on keeping his balance when he heard a loud shout and a young aspen came crashing down before him. A stout beaver brushed past and began gnawing busily at the closest branches. Hiding his feet and presenting what he hoped to be a kindly eye, the creature inquired, as politely as possible, if perhaps the beaver might know or recognize him. Pausing briefly, the beaver gave him a quick glance, remarking on the strength of his front teeth but the absolute uselessness of his front paws. No, he wasn’t a beaver or any other that he had ever seen. Looking down at the small fuzzy stumps that hung by his sides, the creature realized with a sigh how right the beaver was. With them, he could not pick up or hold anything, and he was at a loss to think of what they could be useful for. Thanking the beaver, he continued on his way.
And so it went. Time passed, the seasons changed and changed again as the creature wandered and searched. He too had changed. His eyes were clear, his gaze steady. His feet were no longer too large for his body, which was now strong and covered with golden brown feathers. The fuzzy stumps were no longer fuzzy, but had also grown and reached down to trail along the ground as he moved. He had learned to walk without tripping over them and at night he pulled them up over his back to keep him warm when it grew cold.
The country had also changed. As he worked his way south, forest and meadow had given way to open grassland, studded with small, gnarled trees. Mesas thrust themselves up from the red, rocky earth and the sky was a brilliant, intense blue that held an ever-changing movement of clouds within its vastness. The wind became his friend and constant companion. Sometimes it would whisper, sometimes it would shout at him. But always, when he turned his attention to the wind, it would bring him peace.
The creature had become resigned in his search, but also more firm in his resolve. He met many animals during his journey. Some had laughed, some had shown him kindness, and some had offered discouragement. He had seen it all, and in return was courteous and gave what help he could. His pain and loneliness he kept to himself and he never stayed long in any place. His determination strengthened in his heart the farther he traveled, and he came to enjoy his life with a bittersweet acceptance of all that was.
So it happened that, on the third anniversary of his birth, the creature once again found himself looking for shelter from a gathering storm. The sky blackened and boiled. The wind shrieked, driving rain in flat sheets against the high, open mesa that the creature was trapped upon. The best shelter he could find was a slight depression in the rocky ground, not far from the edge of the cliff itself. He settled in as best he could, and folding his stumps over his back for protection, he prepared to wait out the storm. The air grew colder and the rain turned to sleet which reflected back the blue-white bolts of lightning that struck all around him. The creature was freezing, what breath he could manage a pain to swallow. His eyes were frozen shut and he was filled with a great sadness. He felt the end upon him, and the death of his quest. He lifted his head once more, to say farewell to his friend the wind, and as he did, there was such a crack of white-hot thunder and lightning that he was stunned and deafened. In that instant, the wind lifted him from his hiding place and swept him off the cliff. Such was the fury of the storm that he rose instead of fell. His struggles were useless and with a last cry he gave up the fight. He was exhausted beyond endurance as he gave himself over to the storm. Higher he rose, into the black clouds. Bursting through their tops, he was flung into another world.
Here was silence as deep as eternity, and light as brilliant as burnished gold against a sky of achingly intense blue. The creature’s heart burst with the beauty of it and he paid no attention to his body or his pain. The wind turned him over with a sigh and suddenly the useless stumps he had been dragging behind him snapped open, and he was soaring, suspended between his own strong, golden wings. Then the wind sang to him of their beginning, and in a moment of perfect joy, he knew who he was. He was known as Aquila but he was Lord of the Wind.
The rest of that day he spent soaring, wheeling, and plummeting through the golden sky. By sunset he knew all there was to know about his wings, so he dropped through the clouds and found himself above the valley of his birth. As he glided in perfect flight over his valley, he called to each animal by name. He had known them all and they came at the sound of his voice to gaze in wonder at the newly-born Aquila. His heart was filled with love and understanding as he took his place among them, Lord of the Wind.