Monday, September 15, 2014

The Murmuration of the Body

I remember the first time I witnessed the beautiful choreography of a flock of starlings in flight.
It was a sharply cool autumn afternoon and I had just finished spinning in circles, arms spread, hair flying. As I came out of my twirl I crumpled onto a clump of thick grass and felt the earth sway wildly beneath my splayed body. When I opened my eyes I gazed dreamily at the polished sky.
They entered my field of vision from the left. Like a swarm of gnats hanging angrily in the summer heat, they presented thick and dark. I saw them before I heard them. But as they drew closer, their cackling caught up to their riotous numbers and they soon overtook the entire sky.
Their form was, at once, epic and ephemeral. They ballooned into one grandiose bell shape and then, like chimney smoke caught up in a gust, they turned direction and bellowed wide and constringed.
Again and again, they swelled and contracted, bulged and narrowed. I was awe struck.
I behold this phenomenon twice a year now, when the birds arrive out of nowhere and alight on the branches and fields surrounding my house. Still, but tittering, they pulse with an energy and then, at the striking of some ethereal cue, arise as one. Most times, I drop whatever I am doing and race outside to catch their appearance.
I am often struck silent as I stare, even when accompanied by my children. Some experiences need no words. Sometimes, lessons are garnered in the quiet spaces broken open by the miracle.
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Photo credit: Richard Smith 

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