December 23, 2007


"If you're small and on a search / I've got a feeder for you to perch on" - eels

It's like a videotaped explosion played in reverse. That precision beyond practice, that elegance, that one-by-one landing - that's birds come to branches.

But the only birds in Illinois tonight are those with dysfunctional magnetic field sensors, those who have been consulting these faulty Texas and New York maps, or those that were fooled by the unseasonal warmth only to be slammed against suburban house siding in tonight's wind. It's so windy it sounds like wind out there. Go on, birds, get!

And because 1) I've edited it, and 2) It's no longer posted anywhere else, I go on about birds:

They stood conspicuosly, although it's odd to describe birds as standing, in a plowed fall farm field (not in trees). Their ilicit gathering found out by our passing car, yet not aggressively threatened, the blackbirds
acted their cue to the air and funneled upward with organized teamwork like that captured in 1950s synchronized swimming motion pictures.

They did not flee the field or fly very high as their ranks expanded. As if an M.C. Escher sketch, the tornado of birds whirled larger upon itself while the lead birds covertly returned to the ground. The swoop grew with blackbirds unseen a moment before. Neither a beginning nor an end visible.

We passed. They settled. The second car of our caravan came next and they performed again like so many amusement park rides.

Perhaps more importantly, we read about birds high school, junior year:

Virginia Woolf
The Death of the Moth

The rooks too were keeping one of their annual festivities; soaring round the tree tops until it looked as if a vast net with thousands of black knots in it had been cast up into the air; which, after a few moments sank slowly down upon the trees until every twig seemed to have a knot at the end of it. Then, suddenly, the net would be thrown into the air again in a wider circle this time, with the utmost clamour and vociferation, as though to be thrown into the air and settle slowly down upon the tree tops were a tremendously exciting experience.

John James Audubon
Ornithological Biographies

...I observed the pigeons flying from north-east to south-west, in greater numbers than I thought I had ever seen them before, and feeling an inclination to count the flocks that might pass within the reach of my eye in one hour, I dismounted, seated myself on an eminence, and began to mark with my pencil, making a dot for every flock that passed. In a short time finding the task which I had undertaken impracticable, as the birds poured in in countless multitudes, I rose, and counting the dots then put down, found that 163 had been made in twenty-one minutes...The air was literally filled with Pigeons; the light of noon-day was obscured as by an eclipse...

...I cannot describe to you the extreme beauty of their aerial evolutions, when a Hawk chanced to press upon the rear of a flock. At once, like a torrent, and with a noise like thunder, they rushed into a compact mass, pressing upon each other towards the centre. In these almost solid masses, they darted forward in undulating and angular lines, descended and swept close over the earth with inconceivable velocity, mounted perpendicularly so as to resemble a vast column, and, when high, were seen wheeling and twisting within their continued lines, which then resembled the coils of a gigantic serpent.

Annie Dillard
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Out of the dimming sky a speck appeared, then another, and another. It was starlings going to roost...They seemed to unravel as they flew, lengthening in curves, like a loosened skein...Each individual bird bobbed and knitted up and down in the flight at apparrent random, for no kown reason except that that's how starlings fly, yet all remained perfectly spaced...Over my head I heard a sound of beaten air, like a million shook rugs, a muffled whuff. Into the woods they sifted without shifting a twig, right through the crowns of trees, intricate and rushing, like wind...

...I stood with difficulty, bashed by the unexpectedness of this beauty...Could tiny birds be sifting through me right now, birds winging through the gaps between my cells, touching nothing, but quickening in my tissues, fleet?

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Blogger Chase said...

I think you were the person who exclaimed to me that the thing that created birds must have done it as a joke...what with their huge bodies and tiny, stick-like legs.

December 23, 2007 at 1:26 PM 

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