It felt like an omen – that muffled fluttering sound in the distance, getting closer. I could feel the vibrations. It was the murmurations of starlings – a flock of an untold number, swooping down from the sky and disappearing into the silence of a neighboring tree.
Believing the starlings were passing through the area, I told myself they were enjoying a brief rest, so did not pay much attention to them. But within a few minutes, chatter could be heard from the birds, followed by a rustle, then a sound like rushing wind, signaling their rising in the air as a unified whole, to swoop across the yard, and take refuge in the shadows of a second neighboring tree.
Again, I thought the flock would rest momentarily, then be on their way to whatever destination they were headed to. So, I went about my activities outside. But to my surprise, the starlings returned again to the first tree, where they were lost from my sight. After another few minutes, the sound of their wings, like a rushing wind, again signaled their rising in formation, and swooping across the yard, again, back to the second neighboring tree.
This beautiful scene took place multiple times and as a result, I began to believe I was experiencing something rather miraculous. So I decided to stop what I was doing, and watch the beauty of this rhythmic ritual of nature.
I was thankful to get a few pictures of the sequence, but what I noticed most, was the vibration of the collective sound of the wings of these birds in flight. It reminded me of an ancient antiphonal song of praise between creation and Creator, where deep calls to deep – a pattern that has been taking place for eons. And I felt it resonate. And my spirit joined in.
As the new year arrives, perhaps we might also want to engage in an ancient antiphonal song of praise between ourselves and the Creator. Who knows, a flock of starlings may show up to join with us.
The poem below, by John Ciardi, (1916-1986) offers an invitation to praise, and no words are necessary.
What lifts the heron leaning on the air.
I praise without a name. A crouch, a flare,
a long stroke through the cumulus of trees,
a shaped thought at the sky – then gone. O rare!
Saint Francis, being happiest on his knees,
would have cried Father! Cry anything you please.
But praise. By any name or none. But praise
the white original burst that lights
the heron on his two soft kissing kites.
When saints praise heaven lit by doves and rays,
I sit by pond scums till the air recites
Its heron back. And doubt all else. But praise.
– John Ciardi
Wishing you all peace and praise in New Year.
photo credit: global stewards