December 11, 2022
His feathers were fully grown and laid upon his wings and back in shades of greyish brown, with bright white and black on his chest and wings. His wings stretched nearly three feet across, elegantly shaped and tapering to each pointed wingtip. He was kind of awkward on the ground and it took some work to get airborne, but once he caught the air beneath his wings he could stay airborne for hours. He was an ‘ua’u, or Hawaiian petrel, and he would spend three quarters of the year over the sea.
He was, in short, all grown up.
That left him, I must say, just a little cross. Flying over the ocean at night, wings beating and eyes tracking the water below for the little glow of fish or squid near the surface, he wondered what more there was to things. It was all very well to be a strong flier and a good looking bird and an effective fisher – flying fish, beware! – but now that everything was done, what was there to do that was new?
One day he found himself flying nearly wingtip to wingtip with his grandmother. It was pure chance – ‘ua’u fly solo or in pairs during their nine or so months at sea – and the two fished in silence for a while. After catching a particularly tasty flying fish, however, the grandson turned to the grandmother and asked, “What do I do now that I’ve done everything?”
“What makes you think you’ve done everything?” said Tutu, rather surprised.
“Well, look at me,” he said, and turned a circle that showed off his feathers and flying skills. “I’m an expert at catching fish,” he said, “and I know all the calls and sounds of an ‘ua’u. What more is there?”
Tutu knew that there was something more, but the ‘ua’u don’t start having chicks until they’re some years older, so she didn’t mention that. She was puzzled, though, that her grandson thought he’d done everything there was for an ‘ua’u to do even before having a family.
“Look down,” she said. “What do you see there?”
He looked down and there was a ruffling beneath the sea surface. It was a school of squid – but strangely, he’d only seen such a thing once or twice and had never fished them.
“Follow me,” said Tutu, and she gave a strange twist of her wings and swooped down over the ocean surface. He had to follow more gently, because he’d never seen that flight move before. The two swept over the school of squid and in a moment they were both feeding.
“Was that different?” asked Tutu, and he had to admit it was. “And why didn’t you follow me down the way I flew?” she asked, and he had to tell her he’d never seen what she’d done before.
“I guess you haven’t done it all yet, have you?” asked Tutu.
“But once I’ve eaten everything in the ocean,” he said, “and learned everything there is to know about flying, what is there then?”
“It’s not likely that you’ll taste everything that swims,” she said, “and there is always something more to learn about flying – but even when you get close to that, there will be other ‘ua’u around who will want to learn what you know. Sharing those things makes them new again.”
“Your life is never fulfilled,” she told them. “It may seem much the same from day to day, but even then there are new things, new challenges, because tomorrow is not just like today. Each day you are fulfilling your life, and each tomorrow you are fulfilling it a little more.”
by Eric Anderson
Watch the Recorded Story
In the video, I’m telling the story from memory of this text. And making things up as I go along as well.
Photo of an ‘u’au in flight by ALAN SCHMIERER from southeast AZ, USA – HAWAIIAN PETREL (5-3-2018) kalahaku overlook, haleakala nat park, maui co, hawaii -01, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=74776449.