On Moulting

From A Short Philosophy of Birds by Philippe J. Dubois and Elise Rousseau

The lives of birds, much like our own lives, are shaped by all sorts of events that are like little deaths and rebirths. Moulting is one example. Shedding old feathers in order to acquire newer, more beautiful ones is a yearly process of loss and renewal, and it can be difficult.

If we are to be reborn successfully, we need to understand how to let something within us die. This is what the bird does when it trades in the old plumage for new feathers gleaming with health. For the birds this is vital: it can’t fly if it’s plumage isn’t in perfect condition. And although it may be less obvious, the same is true for us: if we can’t detach ourselves from the past, we can’t move forwards.

For birds, the moulting period is a time of vulnerability. Some moulting birds are temporarily unable to fly, as is the case with a certain species of ducks. They are said to be in a state of ‘eclipse’ plumage, a lovely phrase used to describe a liminal twilight that occurs while the bird waits for the essential feathers that it has shed to regrow. The bird knows it is vulnerable and keeps a low profile, not engaging in any important activities during this time. It is patient. It waits for the renewal to occur so that it can regain all its strength and beauty.

We should do the same sometimes.

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