You were going to get an old story in this post, but I’m going to save it—because, today, the blackbirds came back.
Last year, for some unknown reason, I was home with our daughter one weekday afternoon in the autumn, when a migrating flock of blackbirds descended on the trees surrounding our house. Somehow the word “flock” doesn’t seem to do the image justice. Picture the Alfred Hitchcock horror movie, The Birds, and you’ll get a better sense of proportion—hundreds upon hundreds of birds lining the telephone wires, chattering in the trees, hopping from limb to limb—flitting short distances through the woods before coming to rest again.
On first hearing the sound--my daughter and I ran outside to look—just as quickly scampering back in as we were reminded, quite unceremoniously I might add, of the old childhood adage: “Birdie, birdie in the sky. Why’d you do that in my eye?”
The enormity of the assemblage became apparent when our next door neighbor called to comment on the noise, and, once we glanced out the front windows to observe that the woods behind the houses across the street were filled too. In all the birds covered several acres.
Early October in our latitude offers a rusty afternoon light that blends with the first yellow bleaching of the birch trees, the bright red poison ivy vines that climb sturdy trunks. The birds, backlit by the sun, caused shadows to flicker as they sailed through the oaks, the pines, the ash trees. For obvious reasons pertaining to the verse noted above, we chose to remain inside--but opened the window to catch an immense invasion of sound as the normal afternoon noises--cars speeding down the road, the wind chime peeling out back, the squirrels chattering in the trees, were drowned out by the clatter. And then, as quickly as they arrived, the birds left, a black mass of pulsing wings that lifted and disappeared, leaving behind a hushed intake of silence.
I’m sure, sometime in my life I’ve sat in a migratory path before, but don’t remember it, and last year, the enormity, the awe the flock engendered, made me glad to be home to experience it. So much so that last weekend, when a few blackbirds flew by, my daughter and I looked at each other and said, “Remember last year? I wonder if the birds will come back.”
Today I sat here alone and once again birds surrounded me. Though she was at school and not allowed to use her cell phone, with no one to share the marvel, my wonder, I was compelled to text my daughter: “The birds R back wish U were here.” Notwithstanding a certain Tippy Hedron creepiness, it is gripping be minding your own business when a force of nature of this magnitude descends upon you.
Kneeling on the family room sofa, I watched once again as the trees behind the house were filled with swooping blackbirds until, after about twenty minutes, they took off again. I pictured myself running up the path to my next door neighbor’s to see if she had heard the noise, and then noted a few stragglers still lining the trees. I’ll wait, I thought. Living on a migratory path is extraordinary after all, but caution ruled. In spite of my exhilaration, I chuckled as I muttered the last lines of that ditty we used to quote so long ago:
“I’m sure glad that cows don’t fly.”