Meditations on a Giant Moa

I’ve only seen a single Moa. It stood at the edge of a forest clearing in a patch of dappled, early morning sun on a warm spring day in 1503. It was more than twice my height and nervous. It barely seemed like a bird. Moa are often depicted in a way that imply feathers, but the enormous creature I saw was shaggy and grotesque, like a horrible Muppet stumping through the trees.

Its sharp eye was deep green and suspicious. It moved off from me with slow massive strides. Thick, heavy talons gripped and released the dessicated leaves and dirt of the forest floor as if warning me not to follow.

To imagine it, you might be tempted to picture  an ostrich enlarged, but the the nearest physical experience in terms of height, strangeness and awe might be a giraffe, if a giraffe were an anxious and irritable bird that half-resembled a dinosaur.