Monday, November 28, 2005

Brief birdwalk on a too-windy day

The sky today was blue with more wind than birdwatchers like. I didn’t bring my camera. How do I describe this? Faint clouds of blackbirds pulsate in the distance like living iron filings. Then they’re gone. Now a bunch—cowbirds, I think—appear overhead, squint-focus into a throbbing disorder like amplified Brownian motion, then they turn back into a dissolving haze like the first bunch. They’re gone, swept up by some lines of remote and ancient force, and I am thinking the words fossil pollen. Not necessarily the right image. Close, though.

Under the wind a treeload of grackles startles outbound with a sound that is more than a sound, more like an undertow, or a giant flutter like roomful of moths or a pulse in the eardrum, or the fibrillation of a squadron of helicopters low overhead if you are deaf. (I never get tired to trying to describe this common event. Forgive self-plagiarism of previous posts.)

Now they’re gone, replaced by the rabbit stillness of a field full of heartbeats. A silence that rises like buttermilk in a jug paradoxically even as the wind rushes unvoiced consonants through increasingly leafless branches. Yellow cedar elm leaves depart their trees in unfurled banners for the winter.

A hawk circles over the trees. A red-tailed hawk. It’s gone. I’m back at my car.

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