Even in the Leafless Winter

images

As a counterpoint to Christmas I’m very happy to post this piece and accompanying video by Malcolm Green, bird lover and storyteller.  His captivating collaboration with Tim Dalling, Shearwater, has this year toured the length and breadth of the country and will be returning to Orkney for next year’s Festival.

I like the idea that the starlings are putting on a show for those with time to stand and look in North America too.

Reed (Phragmites australis) is the species in the Celtic Tree Calendar for October 28th – November 23rd.

Starlings at Lambley

I first noticed the starlings on a walk with Pat on November 10th (2013).  They were in the reed beds of the Lambley water treatment plant; the reeds alive with their pre-sleep twitter as they found their best perch for the night.  Sometimes five or six excited birds clung to one stalk so many had collapsed.

Then another night from a distance, a ball of them flew through the sky – in turn visible and invisible, expanding and contracting, like a breath.  Breath-taking.

Again on December 8th, I went to the same spot with Paul and we stood beside the reed bed from three o’clock in the afternoon. We watched them assemble; one little flock after the next joining the gathering cloud – a ballet of birds that whipped and whooped through the sky, round and round our heads.  How many were there? Perhaps 20,000 or so individuals that joined together to become a single gyrating organism.

I read on Google that it is possible to understand the movement of the flock mathematically.  It’s also easy to project all sorts of meanings onto this extraordinary dance. But the experience seems to defy rational explanation and this, in a way, is its power. The sight and sound transcends our mental murmurings and busy calculations to simply set our cells aflutter with excitement and awe. A reminder that there is a real, living world away from the desk and the screen.

I believe they have left the little reed bed now.  Perhaps they flattened all the available stalks and it is no longer a refuge.  Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps…

Malcolm Green

Starlings in Winter

Chunky and noisy,

but with stars in their black feathers,

they spring from the telephone wire

and instantly

 

 

they are acrobats

in the freezing wind.

And now, in the theater of air,

they swing over buildings,

 

 

dipping and rising;

they float like one stippled star

that opens,

becomes for a moment fragmented,

 

 

then closes again;

and you watch

and you try

but you simply can’t imagine

 

 

how they do it

with no articulated instruction, no pause,

only the silent confirmation

that they are this notable thing,

 

 

this wheel of many parts, that can rise and spin

over and over again,

full of gorgeous life.

Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,

 

 

even in the leafless winter,

even in the ashy city.

I am thinking now

of grief, and of getting past it;

 

 

I feel my boots

trying to leave the ground,

I feel my heart pumping hard, I want

to think again of dangerous and noble things.

 

 

I want to be light and frolicsome.

I want to be improbably beautiful and afraid of nothing,

as though I had wings.

 

Mary Oliver

 

 

Advertisements
Tagged , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: