I no longer have to look away from the sunset to know the birds are flying over. I’ve come to recognize the sound, like water rushing against the banks of a stream, of thousands of wings pumping then gliding then pumping. The ribbon of their combined mass twists for miles like a giant ghost snake in the sky, its molecules dividing, joining, undulating from the green marsh grass into eye blue sky. Birds silhouette against an edge of tangerine cloud that is a scribble of glue in the sky. Below them, the smell of dirt, smoke from the burning mountain, drum beats from the heart of the hazed city. A canoe shaped like a Nile barge bumps against the reeds. Sounds of a new flock flying over whip the air above the night heron who stands on short legs on a post surrounded by low water. The whole mass of birds is blown by the wind forth and back, forth and back. Some separate and circle back to marsh grass where another mass lifts to fly east, away from the setting sun. The scene is ripped by the rapid raucous staccato of two small boys lofting rocks toward the soaring banks of birds, violence feisty in their harsh raised voices. Again and again they throw their stones, a futile gesture, as above them the sun turns angry orange over the purple mountains, then sinks to radiate like something sacred from behind dark clouds. Watching two egrets open the air with pencil points, then vanish into it, I only hear the diving pelican cut the water behind the tall reeds. And, like a sudden wind over my head, a new rush of blackbirds.
A number of people wanted to see photos of the blackbirds taking flight at Lake Chapala, so I spent a few hours going through old boxes of photos and found some which you can see HERE. The picture I used to illustrate above is one I took of starlings, I believe, and not taken at Lake Chapala, although the skies look similar!
Birds perch on countless branches, each a separate bell
ringing out the cadence of stories they must tell.
Around them, eerie silence, for no other sounds compete.
No calls of children playing. No pattering of feet
up and down the pavement. No playing girls and boys,
for all the busy humans, infamous for their noise,
are staying in their houses and no amount of blustering
from their scattered leaders is bound to stop their clustering.
Families draw in closer as friends all fade away
into their particular intentions for the day.
Offices turn cyber. Schools are merely screens.
Mothers sit at kitchen tables, perusing magazines.
Fathers pace on carpets and worry about money.
How are they to make it now that the world’s gone funny?
Now and then, the silence split open by a bell
tolling for the human race who haven’t done too well
at going with the scheme of things. They prefer to take over,
making malls and parking lots out of fields of clover.
Trashing up the landscape. Peppering the tide
with their plastic mountains grown too big to hide.
Is it any wonder how nature responds?
We’ve held her prisoner long enough. She’s sloughing off her bonds.
She’s given us broad hints, but still we do not mind her.
So she’s erasing her mistakes and putting us behind her.
Each year the nest more delicate, nonetheless they return, my faithful little finches, watching it by turn until the eggs all hatch and the nestlings start their squeal, prompting parent after parent to fly off to find their meal.
In the rafter near the kitchen, they continue serenading, keeping up their clatter as their folks go promenading, in search of constant aphids and seeds that are their food, creating angry nestlings, demanding in their mood.
Of all of nature’s visitors, these finches are the best, although I’m glad my kitchen is not my place of rest. Their insistent chirping is not the stuff of dreams. Their continual conversation begins with the first beams
of morning sun, continuing all the long day through, like living in an aviary at my private zoo.
Nature all around us reminds us of our place.
It humbles with its beauty and slows our human pace
to take notice of her cycles and her stubborn repetitions, planning out each life form in particular renditions. I cannot be but humbled as I cook up my creations, listening to the chorus of my avian relations.