I found a feather, just laying there on the ground. In folk lore this means I am going to have a lucky day or maybe just a good day. Folk lore can be a little iffy about these things sometimes. But I feel lucky.

When I find a good feather, I consider that a lucky day and who knows, I might even get luckier. I have always been fascinated by feathers. They are neat and very feathery as well as soft and remarkably light. I find it a bit of a mystery

I picked it up and smoothed it out. It was a flight feather, probably from a magpie. It was a molted feather, so it would be a year old and if you looked at it closely, you could see some of the wear and tear. We have a lot of birds in the north and most molt once or twice a year growing in all new feathers. So by now, you would think we would be up to our knees in feathers, but that is not the case.

Now and then you may find the occasional feather but that is about it. What happens to all the rest of them, no one seems to know? Maybe some critters are eating them, or taking them away to line their own nest, but many just seem to disappear or disintegrate in some way.

I know not everyone is amazed or fascinated by feathers, but they should be. They are a marvel of design, engineering, functionality, beauty and natural science. Not only are the feathers themselves interesting, but so are all the uses humans have put them to. Thousands of years ago someone was holding a feather in their hand and decided to stick it in their hair or on a hat just for the fun of it and for decoration. The idea caught on and people are still doing it to this day. It just seems to be a normal and natural thing to do. Just look at the Royals and their fascinating hats with enormous feathers in some of them.

Someone else had probably been plucking a lot of birds and decided I bet this would make a nice soft pillow or woven into a blanket they would make it nice and warm. People even started making jackets and pants filled with down and winter parkas were invented. Down is remarkably warm.

Feathers radically changed human history. Way back in the stone age a lot of people made themselves bows and arrows. Trouble was the arrows didn’t shoot all that straight. Some genius of the day looked at a feather and thought attaching a few to the back end of the arrow might make it work better and by golly it did. Its called fletching and it forever changed hunting and warfare with bows and arrows. I have no idea how they stumbled onto that innovation but its hard to think of an arrow without the feathers at one end.

Long before computers, ball point pens or fountain pens, someone was trying to write using probably a brush. For some reason they tried using the end of a feather and it worked but you had to dip it into the inkpot several times just to get one letter done. Someone took a knife and sharped the point and cut into the hollow end of the feather’s main spine called the calamus. It would hold more of the ink so you could dip much less often and write whole words at one go. This was a major revolution in writing and the literary arts. This invention was called the quill. People wrote this way from the Sixth to the 19th centuries. That is over 1,300 years. Wow. Talk about something that lasted. It wasn’t replaced until people figured out how to make metal nibs, which eventually lead to the ball point pens or gel pens we have today.

Every time I look at a feather, I wonder what else it might be capable of doing. Surely it has a few more things to teach us. They are just so good at keeping us warm, helping our arrows to shoot straight and wonderful if you are into calligraphy. I still think there is a lot we could learn from them and remember, if you find a feather, it’s your lucky day!

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