I’iwi Rules

'I'iwi_at_Hosmer_Grove,_Haleakala,_Maui,_Hawaii_4There was an i’iwi who was brave and creative and spirited. If she was a marcher, she’d have marched to the beat of her own drummer – and changed drummers at least four times along the course of the parade. The chances are good that only one of those five drummers would have been audible to any other marcher.

She was not a marcher, however, and had no intention of becoming one (since i’iwi never seriously consider marching at all). She was determined, however, to push the boundaries every chance she got.

It started when she realized that her long curved bill could be inserted into an ohi’a blossom from above as well as below. It worked as well from either side. She experimented with all sorts of perches, and all sorts of grips. Some worked better than others, but she never gave up trying something else.


If she could eat upside down, she reasoned, certainly she could fly upside down. Right?

This, it turned out, did not go well at all. Her body, which probably had more sense than her head at that moment, resisted even trying to fly upside down. She would flip over, and her wings would curl just a little more and complete the roll so that she was rightside up again. She tried left, and she tried right, and she went rolling through the sky.

With enough determination, though, she got her wings to stop making that extra curl – or make a reverse curl (she wasn’t sure) – and there she was, belly-up to the sky. And…


She flipped hastily over before she hit the ground.

A few more tries brought much the same result. An i’iwi’s wings don’t provide a lot of lift upside down.

“Well,” she thought, “how about if I try something else?” She gained some altitude, settled into a rhythm, and then tucked one wing onto her back. And then she was rolling and spiraling downward, head spinning, and only her body’s instinct to re-open her folded wing saved her from a nasty crash.

Several near-misses later, she flew wearily to a tree where her grandmother had been watching. She settled down on the branch to catch her breath.

“What,” asked her grandmother, “were you doing?”

“Trying different ways to fly,” she replied between gasps of air.

“Upside down?”

“I can eat upside down.”

“On just one wing?”

She shrugged. “I’m sure I can make it work.”

Her grandmother looked long and lovingly at her, and said, “If any i’iwi could do it, I’m sure you could, Granddaughter. But I’m afraid there are some basic rules to flight – not rules of what’s allowed, but rules of what’s possible. And one of them is that you’ve got to use two wings to fly.”

An i’iwi could explain the physics of it, I’m sure, better than I can. What I can tell you is that the grandmother gave her granddaughter enough of an explanation that her failures to fly on one wing started to make a lot of sense. It’s one of the rules that i’iwi live by.

For many centuries now, people have had a set of rules that make life better for us. We call them the Ten Commandments. They’re not laws of physics, but they do tell us how we can live well with each other and with God. If we don’t give our worship or give our resources to powers which aren’t God, we’ll do well. If we don’t break promises made in God’s name, we’ll do well. If we give time to God, we’ll do well. If we treat our parents respectfully, we’ll do well. If we don’t hurt one another, or steal from one another, or lie to one another, or break our relationships, or pay more attention to each other’s stuff than to themselves, we’ll do well.

Those are as basic to us as two wings are to the i’iwi. With those rules, we’ve got every chance to fly.

Photo by Kanalu Chock  – originally posted to Flickr as ‘I’iwi at Hosmer Grove, Haleakala, Maui, Hawaii, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8261908

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