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Wings in Spring and Springy Wings


all but the cats write here ... to remember, to share, to mumble, to shout ... follow along by RSS or email if you like.

Wings in Spring and Springy Wings


I hate to admit it, but we’re stuck.  I’m reminded of my graduation ceremony.  We had a fairly large high school and could afford to rent a flock of doves to be released as the symbol of the graduate’s flight into the Real World.  The time came when we all sat, diplomas in hand, and the string was pulled.  The cover slid off the cage and the flock burst up into the sky in a glorious cloud, circling once over our heads as if to include us in their new-found freedom.  The band struck up a triumphant tune and the cloud winged a bee-line to the end of the football field and roosted in the boughs of a large maple tree.

And after our caps were cast, our classmates clasped, the tubas entombed, and our robes removed, we walked to our cars looking back at those birds, like Poe’s raven, tenaciously grasping their branches of maple, unmoving.

Our current circumstances place us firmly in the roosting class.  We’ve come to the end of our funds before achieving complete mobility.  Our numerous trickle-income schemes take time to produce, and our local employment search has, to date, yielded leads but no fruit.  Our Hosts, though ever so kind, have been in a similar boat since before we arrived.  There are four main obstacles to getting out alive.  The first is registering and paying taxes on the camper, the next is repairs for Matilda (a new alternator and shock bushings), the third is buying food to eat and fourth is gas to go.  There are a lot of other bills and needs but those 4 things will get us to the next paying job.  And so I am casting the net further afield. 

We have somewhat to offer from a distance.  I will draw black and white portraits from photos for $25 a person, oil pastel portraits (color) for $75 a person, and painted portraits for $300 a person (you know Mother’s Day IS coming soon).  Bethany is awesome at making websites and editing stuff.  Any other commissions or ideas are very welcome. 

The spring peepers are just emerging here in Tennessee as winter’s last hurrah echoes in the hills.  We may be immobile but our spirits soar like kites in this warm March wind.  Douglas turned 13 and had a flying dream last night.  The crocuses and chives are pushing up and I’ve reached 50 rotary pushups in the morning.  Fynn and I are practicing the boogie-woogie on guitar + cello and he’s found a neighborhood homeschooling friend 13 hours younger than him. 

Our family exercises are improving and I swear Bethany is looking younger.  Douglas’s venus fly trap is sprouting flowers and his upper lip is sprouting black velvet.  We’re finding ways to work on Keren and Bobby’s house with what resources are available and I’m very pleased to discover a hair dryer and patience removes the decals from the camper.  Those trickle-income schemes I mentioned are growing into something tangible, maybe something even practical.  How do you feel about online Art Lessons geared around the Family Drawing model? Well, they’re coming!


All our dreams are intact and undiminished, the culmination of which is … What?  No, we're not going to stop with just a mountainside cob village!  There must be BIRDWINGS!  Human Powered, 35-foot, High Tension, Flapping Birdwings!   Of course, we’ll need a mountainside to take off from and as they say – “It takes a village to raise a child … on BIRDWINGS!”

“Sure,” you say, “That’s a nice juvenile fantasy, but it’s been tried and proven impossible.  Man does not possess the muscle strength nor the lightness of bone structure to sustain flight with wings.  Why, his pectoral muscles alone would need to be the size of car tires and even then he’d do no better than a turkey.”

“Yes,“  I answer, “but consider this: what size of -”

“Also,” you interrupt, “Leonardo DaVinci tried it with leg power and it still wasn’t enough.  And if he couldn’t do it, do you really think you’re going to be able to?”

“Well, actually, my design incorporates the use of –“

“Plus,”  you continue, “Science has come such a long way since DaVinci that surely SOMEbody would have found a way by now.”

I am silent now, biting my tongue, which tastes bitter.  I stare awhile at your implacable cat-that-ate-the-canary smile then open my mouth …

“Actually,” you say, ”I saw this YouTube video where a Dutch guy made a pair of wings with flapping motors controlled by Nintendo Wii paddles that amplified his arm movements.  He had one video of him flying with it, but a lot of experts said the whole thing was a hoax.”

“Aaaaaaaargh!!” I say.

“What?” you ask.

“Those wings, even if they ARE real, are NOT human powered, they’re human controlled!  Flapping wings HAVE to be mechanical, NOT motorized!”


“Because everyone says it’s impossible!”  I seem to be shouting a lot.

“But …” you seem genuinely puzzled, “It IS impossible.”

“Not if” I have my head in my hands, “You make the wings large enough to render the person’s weight negligible or even complementary to a balanced system of tension. “ I say quietly.

“How big would that be?”

“About 35 feet, is my guess.”

“How on Earth,”  you demand,  ”are you going to Flap wings that big?!”

“That’s where the tension comes in,”` I brighten, “In my design, force is only applied at the top of the stroke and the bottom of the stroke and tension does the rest of the work.  Imagine holding a 3-foot tightly coiled spring horizontally by the center.”

“OK,” You are imagining.

“OK. When you move your arm up and down, what happens?”

“The spring bends and my skin gets pinched in the coils.”

“Ok, ok.  Imagine it’s a thin 8-foot dowel of wood.  What happens?”

“Hmm …” you muse.  “The ends begin bouncing up and down.”

“Exactly!”  I’m getting excited now, “And if you keep a steady rhythm you only have to move an increment at the top and bottom of the stroke and the bouncing ends flap harder and harder.  The tension of the bent stick stores the energy expended and uses it in the opposite stroke!”

“My imaginary stick just snapped in half,” you lament.

“Very Funny” I say dryly.  “Now watch this video on YouTube to see what I’m doing with this principle.  I’ve not gotten far, but it’s a good start.”

“Ok,” you say, and you do.

“This,” I say when you return, “Is my dream hatching!”

“You’re going to need feathers,” you reply…

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