Archeopteryx: A Bird’s Eye View of Groundedness

Michael Garfield
Nov 25, 2016 · 3 min read
Archeopteryx lithographica, “The Berlin Specimen” (MB.Av.101). As of 2016, only twelve specimens are known to science.

(Originally published in Projections Magazine.)

Align the axis of the past and future on the spine of time — tail and dirt behind us, and ahead all chrome and sky. The wet of earth and memory, our expectations dry, embodied intellect sure-footed, standing now, where they collide. We are the early birds, not yet quite sure just how to fly — bipedal, feathered, fast, and hungry, flapping as we glide. Halfway between the amniotic ocean and the twinkling space, the intersection between moving orbs and still embrace, we chase the over there for food, love, and adventure, tracing cosmogenic gestures with our own awkward gait.

We are a quickened clump of dirt, a swirling drop, the first extension of attention flirting with the heaven’s skirts — and they involve, descend, and fray, the metabolic play arranging atoms, brains, and words. The two engage. Then all the world becomes a stage that runs like the prestige third act love made for comedies, the angels mounting beasts to sire the child of fire and wind, our liminality aloft as nature dually joined and twinned. The Archeopteryx, all quills and teeth, betwixt the lizard and the passerine (each in its way a mix).

We aren’t a ghost inside a lifeless husk so much as both the wide-armed light and quiet dark at once — a confluence of what could be, was, is, and must — not just the motes afloat in sunlit windows, more than animated dust — because the dust’s alive as well, and the celestial desert, life and death a braided snake, start and finish both depending on where witness cuts forever. We collapse eternity into the firmament of present, lifted by the tension of remembered, noticed, and intended — stretching effortlessly like a river bends, momentum’s pressure strong and light at once as it expands into the pregnant.

Take the leap and let ideas meet their containers in their shapes, the destiny electrically expressed as whales and apes, both alchemically adapted to an alien terrain just like the lightning dancing in the bottle of an avian brain. To speak of Ground as groundless and dynamic woven processes, the archetypal anchor that in every shape still follows us as creatures born of gravity and vertically inclined, is to exalt the source supporting us, mysterious as mind.

We know it’s down, except when crown inverts to touch the grass; but one days down will lose its meaning and we’ll grow not up, but out, twirling fully fledged as planets in the pantheon at last. We will known, then, birds as echoes of the freedom of expression ultimately mastered spherically, casting shadows here as we flex in one less dimension. Similarly, serially, pen on page is, in one sense, just our pretension to the richly textured sediments of heaven in the flesh, when elements will blend orchestrally as meta-organisms meshed, each thread of individuality like tinsel in a nest, collected and connected, interference patterns netted like crossed fibers in the breastbone, ground to some so-subtle and transcendent intimation of The Next.

But for now, chimerically, we sketch that air tapestry with chicken scratch in the clay, our scaly feet below and plumes above the best agreement that the air can make with rock, a miracle etheric and embodied, meaning sought — and found — in every opposite uniting, brightdark silentsound, the infinite significance we are, the groundless ground.

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Michael Garfield

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Renaissance reconnaissance mapping the molten intersections of art, science, & philosophy! Host of Future Fossils Podcast; Social Media for Santa Fe Institute.

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