I wish I could write only about birds.
That I could go back to how it was, when my dreams held shards of words and images of flitting sparrows, dreams of opening eyes to the wonder of the natural world through birds. Dreams of articulating connections with the earth so deep I feel the words but cannot speak them. These dreams are skies filled with murmurations of starlings, clouds of thousands of birds, so thick that all I can do is stand and watch as they swarm around me in mesmerizingly complex shapes. A cohesive flock responding as one but with no leader, sinuously pulsating and shifting, no bird touching another, close enough that I can feel the air from their wings as they pass inches from my face.
I want to write about the dipper, the water ouzel, the small dark bird the color of wet slate, a bird that lives the streams of my heart-country here in the West. The dipper pliés along the stream’s edge, barely visible against the slick-black rocks. Waiting, dancing a ballet in time to the music of the stream, bended legs and wings suddenly propel the bird into the water where it dives, plucking insects from under rocks to feed its growing young. I watch dippers when I need assurance that the world is not as harsh as it appears to be. The truths of the individuals are the truths of the species, we tell ourselves. I cannot watch all dippers to know what they do, as much as I might wish to. My sample size is only a tiny fraction of the whole. It’s accepted that what we see in these few means something about them all. As an ornithologist I accept this to be true, but as a human I sometimes refuse the evidence.Continue reading