Saturday, September 29, 2012

Swayed by Hitchcock

Coming home from the grocery store yesterday, we heard a throng of chirping unlike anything we’d heard before. We looked up to see a nearby tree filling with birds, all sounding the same message.

Turned out they were starlings flying in from three different directions in small flocks—all jockeying for a place on the oak’s topmost branches, though there was plenty of room in the lower two-thirds of the tree. We stood mesmerized for some time. Whenever we thought the birds were finished congregating, a new batch would land.

My husband ran home to get his camera. While he was gone, even more birds joined the group.

Though we’d seen our share of undulating flocks in the skies, we’d never witnessed the period beforehand when the birds assembled. We wondered how many were there, how many more would arrive, how long they’d stay in the tree before taking off, where they were headed, and if they’d head there in one magnificent murmuration.

After a bit, the chirping gave way to typical starling calls, which meant what? They were relaxing? The assemblage was complete?

As a neighborhood couple came up behind us, we stepped aside to give them right-of-way on the sidewalk. They noticed what captivated us and made some reference to Hitchcock’s avian film. That was my cue, I realized much too late, to SPEAK UP—to clue them in to the uniqueness of the moment and prevent them from doing what they did next.

As the couple neared the tree, the man raised his hands above his head and forcefully clapped, tidily dispersing the birds as he’d intended to do.

I saw red. Several un-neighborly actions came to mind. What compelled the guy to bully the birds? Was he a six-year-old?

More important, how did his behavior impact the starlings? Was their plan ruined? Would late arrivals to the tree know how to find the rest of their clan? Would this new development interrupt the starlings’ eat/sleep cycles?

Now, I didn’t go so far as to have expected the couple to join us in our amazement. I realize we can’t all focus on nature all the time. Someone has to noodle on closing the tech divide and providing clean-water access to the world. Yet surely the rest of us can take time out periodically from our other concerns to contemplate the beauty and mystery that the Universe bestows upon us. Or, at least, not spoil someone else’s contemplation.

If we don’t see—really see—the environment we live in, how can we responsibly care for it? May the Universe set something of beauty in your path this weekend…

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...