Carol Jane Remsburg
Strange New Year Harbinger
It's not even a full week into the year 2004 and the flocks of birds with black wings are upon us again. Some are starlings, others crows, while most are grackles mistaken for the others. They feed by the thousands en masse and take wing as one in a riveting display filled with the shuddering sounds of their efforts. Flocking birds are always a portent, normally not a nice one.
Anyone who has seen Alfred Hitchcock's, The Birds, knows well the subliminal fear each human carries for even the most innocuous of wildlife, for they are wild and cannot be counted upon to be predictable; even domesticated animals and pets, hold forth some mystery and trepidation. Things beyond the human control, those things mostly outside the safety of our windows and doors put us on alert. A normally loving and affectionate dog growls and bristles. A placid cat hisses and arches. The massive flocking of thousands of birds, cheeping, and making the air tremble as they rise up and blacken the sky, is enough to make any adult pull back inside.
The last two days have been aberrant for early January, 60o+ degrees, almost 70o and clear blue skies. All of which struck a discordant note to the landscape which is bleak and barren. It's the regular view come winter time of dun, brown, and tan, no greenery with the cold. It's winter now and sometimes, just sometimes, we get a new mix to those colors—the white of snow.
Currently every window in the house is open to catch the errant freshening breeze. Winter months are harsh on indoor air which while warming and enveloping isn't fresh. And no matter how often you dust or vacuum, it doesn't help. Fresh air, real—outside air, is eagerly looked forward to from the time the windows seal shut sometime late in October or early November. It happens often enough, but it always feels strange when it does. Forecasters are calling for lows in the teens in 48 hours and highs striving to reach 30o by Wednesday. The birds are foraging in the best way they can, in their feeding intensity they are telling us that time is short, the cold, the REAL cold is coming and we must make ready. Somehow they must feel it in their little hollow bones. Who knows?
Yesterday, with the same warm weather I ventured forth with every available piece of laundry, mostly bed linens to line dry, to capture that elusive, fleeting, and always most precious scent of clean freshness that only line-drying in the country affords. Comforters, sheets, blankets all made their way outside and on the line for the small window afforded. Everyone in the house reveled in that freshness as they curled up into bed last night. I know it will be some time to come before that happens again and I couldn't miss that opportunity.
Still, it was the flocking of the birds, the sheer numbers of them in the thousands that moved, swirled, danced in mid-air as if they had one mind. Schools of fish do that too, but in flight, somehow it seems more mesmerizing.
I shooed them away from my laundry line and hoped that they wouldn't disparage it. I was lucky. All came in and was clean and fresh, still the flocking yesterday and today is haunting to watch as they go from field to field to roosting in trees. They know it's coming. Without the Weather Channel we wouldn't. Watching nature is always revealing especially when you know the answer before hand.
If you haven't looked outside your window, take a peek or a gander. You'd be surprised at what goes on when you aren't paying attention. Meanwhile, keep warm this coming week—just by the birds, it looks that it will be frigid.