About five years ago I saw a mockingbird make a straight vertical descent from
the roof-gutter of a four-story building. It was an act as careless and spontaneous
as the curl of a stem or the kindling of a star.
The mockingbird took a single step into the air and dropped. His wings were
still folded against his sides as though he were singing from a limb and not
falling, accelerating thirty-two feet per second, through empty air.
Just a breath before he would have been dashed to the ground, he unfurled his
wings with exact deliberate care, revealing the broad bars of white, spread his
elegant white-banded tail, and so floated onto the grass. I had just rounded a
corner when his insouciant step caught my eye; there was no one else in sight.
The fact of his free fall was like the old philosophical conundrum about the tree
that falls in the forest. The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are
performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be