Flight Lesson – 16
There is a Bird Walk off Taliesin East that floats in the sky over the Wisconsin River Valley like a cantilevered wing. A concrete main spar makes its way above the trees of Spring Green. Built for the third wife of Frank Lloyd Wright at her request. She asked simply, “Please Frank, let me walk among the birds.” Her words changed the architecture of their home and he built her a cedarwood and golden limestone balcony. So she could walk among the birds with her feet planted safely on his ground. Facing southeast the Bird Walk runs like a runway into the valley. Favoring sunrises over sunsets, it banks slightly to the left to look into morning light. If you think of Frank Lloyd Wright, you have to think like the man and question the nature of the thing. What is the nature of a Bird Walk? Is it a convertible castle keep, a contemplative catwalk, or a cantilevered wing? The nature of any thing is subjective, depending through who’s eyes you use to see.
Through my Wright eye I saw Wright’s life. Surrounded by controversy and tragedy, yet he rose from the ashes again and again to rebuild himself and Taliesin III. Never giving up on his life goal of designing an American Democratic Architecture. His ‘shining brow’ Taliesin, namesake of the Celtic bard who sang at the court of King Arthur of Pendragon, was also thrice born. Restored and repaired on the brow of the hill at Spring Green, reuniting hill and house again in harmony. The Bird Walk soars out of Taliesin. It is not of the hill or of the house, but of the sky. I saw Wright’s Bird Walk as a compromise from a man who had suffered so much loss. At the very end of his life his architecture outstretched like an open arm, as a handshake between the pair. A marriage of freedom and safety. Walk among the birds as long as you please, then turn around and return home to me.
Leaving Taliesin an unanswered email waited for me. It was from a man I knew residually, through some correspondence with his wife. He was contemplating flying and lost in the architecture of it. Stuck in his mind, struggling to fit the building blocks of cost, safety, what to fly, and why to fly, together in his design. His questions were complex and philosophical. He ended his email to me – “but then I think of my dream to fly.” I cautioned him not to look at all the building blocks to becoming a pilot as monolithic stumbling blocks, but rather a series of small exploratory stepping stones. Reminding him it’s not what you fly, it is that you fly. Looking through my Knight eye, I saw the nature of his Bird Walk as a mythical quest. A young Knight of the Air, pacing fore and aft, on a catwalk staring into a precipice of fearlessness. Seeking the Holy Grail of flight, but unsure of how to begin. Shuffling the courage around his feet and battling the air above the trees. The only enlightenment I could share was that every quest begins with the first step. Walk on the Bird Walk for a while and plan. You’ll know in your heart when it’s time to leap.
Through my pilot’s eyes combined, that shine bluer each flight, I saw with 20/20 vision the nature of the Bird Walk to me. A bridge. A Bird Walk is a cantilevered air bridge, with a wing as its suspended span. Uniting a community with an anchor arm of common history, supported by our shared desire to fly. Projecting horizontally into infinity, the air bridge is traveled equally by Bird Walkers, Star Gazers, and Knights of the Air. We are all architects of the sky when we design and build our own dreams of flight.
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