Dinosaur of the Week: Microraptor

Growing up, I was a big summer camp kid. I would anticipate the thrill of being dropped off at a forest-y campsite with a few of my friends – and a handful of kids from across the country who I’d never met – just to play games like capture the flag and water polo all summer long. One summer, the summer of 2015, my camping experience was dampened by one flaw in my system: my inability to fly.

My camp counselor laid out simple rules for our activity: we would climb onto the top of a hut-like structure and then be securely attached to ropes that would hang down from a wooden beam-like structure hanging off the roof of the hut. Since we were strapped in nice and tight, we’d be able to jump from the top of the hut and slowly descend into the water below as the ropes were pulled by our counselor. I remember looking up at this beast of a contraption. Was it beautiful? Yes. Was it an engineering feat made possible only by the mysterious workings of the human mind? Yes. Was it 100% effective? This is where I hesitated. How could these camp counselors – mere freshmen in college – be able to securely strap us to ropes preventing our unexpected plunge into the cold water beneath us? And furthermore, did my parents sign a liability waiver? If so, what were they thinking?

I watched as kids of all shapes and sizes were strapped onto the ropes, encouraged to jump from the top of the hut, and then slowly lowered down into the water, where they were unstrapped and able to enjoy the cool sensation of the water on this hot summer day. As my turn approached, I felt my hands begin to sweat (I have hyperhidrosis so this was not abnormal), but then I also felt my upper lip begin to sweat (this was abnormal). My panic started setting in. I climbed up the hut, I fastened my security belt, I felt the strength of the ropes, and I jumped off. Prior to jumping off, we were given one instruction: do not wriggle around or you will pull the ropes and plunge into the water. Naturally, in a state of frenzy, I began the wriggling motion as soon as I jumped. To the dismay of the counselors, I faced a plunge into the cold water. While the height from which I plunged (no more than five feet) was not enough to cause me pain, it was enough to plant a seed of envy deep within me. In that moment, I wished I could’ve flown. In that moment, I wished I was a microraptor. 

Microraptors are dinosaurs best known for their flying abilities. They have not only wings, but also a long and flowing tail. Originally found throughout China, this species of dinosaur has unknown physical characteristics. It may have been feathered or featherless. It may have been brown or pink or blue or purple. Regardless, its special flying nature has granted it a special place in my heart. As my appreciation for and acceptance of the existence of dinosaurs increases, my envy for the microraptor fades and transforms into admiration.

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