A new name

Earth from International Space StationAfter redesigning the website and re-implementing our blog space, I asked around for recommendations for a suitable title. Because there had to be something I chose "Uplook" - a reference to the High Watch, while weighing several other recommendations.

In late July I saw an article in the New York Times Magazine that intrigued me, "The Mysterious Life of Birds Who Never Come Down," by Helen MacDonald. It is a poetic look at the life of the common swift, and as I read her depiction of the birds' behavior I knew we had found our name. She writes of their daily ascent high above the earth, a phenomenon dubbed "vespers flights" from the latin vesper, evening, and related traditionally to the end-of-day prayers in the Rule of Saint Benedict. But there's more :

"Swifts weren’t just making vesper flights in the evenings. They made them again just before dawn. Twice a day, when light levels exactly mirror each other, swifts rise and reach the apex of their flights at nautical twilight. . . .

"[M]igratory birds orient themselves through a complex of interacting compass mechanisms. During vesper flights, swifts have access to them all. At this panoptic height, they can see the scattered patterns of the stars overhead, and at the same time they can calibrate their magnetic compasses, getting their bearings according to the light-polarization patterns that are strongest and clearest in twilit skies. Stars, wind, polarized light, magnetic cues, the distant stacks of clouds a hundred miles out, clear cold air, and below them the hush of a world tilting toward sleep or waking toward dawn. What they are doing is flying so high that they can work out exactly where they are, to know what they should do next. They’re quietly, perfectly, orienting themselves."

There's so much more to this essay, but this depiction of a twice daily re-calibration brings to mind nothing more than the practice of Translation®, through which we lift our consciousness to a place beyond geographical landmarks to ascertain universal principles that clarify and provide direction.

But the swifts have another lesson for us :

"[S]wifts don’t make these flights alone. They ascend as flocks every evening before singly drifting down, while in the morning they fly up alone and return to earth together. To orient themselves correctly, to make the right decisions, they need to pay attention not only to the cues of the world around them but also to one another. . . . If you’re in a flock, decisions about what to do next are improved if you exchange information with those around you."

We hope that this space will be a place to share information and bring greater light to all.

So, with gratitude to Ms. MacDonald, we dedicate this space for sharing our news and insights with the title, "Vesper Flights."