Sunday, August 08, 2010

High flight

During the school year, when I'm on my way to pick G up after work, I pass a gas station that is also home to a sizable flock of birds. The gas station has a flat roof, and sometimes the birds perch along its edge, or on the power lines just above it. The rest of the time, they fly over the building and the intersection where it sits.

Because of the way the traffic signals are timed, I usually miss the green light and end up waiting there for five or six minutes each evening, which gives me plenty of time to watch the birds in their flight. I don't know how they do it (instinct? nonverbal communication? psychic powers?), but every bird in the flock knows exactly when to take off, when to flap, when to glide, when to land, and how much distance to leave between itself and the next bird. They wheel above that intersection in formation, sharp-edged black V-shapes against the rose and gold of the sunset, and something about them is beautiful enough to break your heart. Maybe it's their precision, or the grace of their turns and dives, or the way they clearly don't care that they live above a paved gas station and a busy, exhaust-choked street, and that no one but me pays any attention to them. They fly the way they're built to fly, the same way they would fly over an ocean or a forest or a mountain, in front of a crowd or without a single witness. And when I watch them for those few minutes, I always think how good it must be to be a bird: to know all on your own, without being told, what you're supposed to do and exactly how to do it; and to spend your days doing that thing.

The older I get, the less I believe that there's a God in the way most people imagine God; in the last few years, I've gone from theist to deist to agnostic, and I don't foresee a reversal of that trend. But if there is some sort of higher power or greater intelligence at work in the universe (which is possible, though not probable), I think you'd find it there, in the space between two birds' wings. I tried to explain this to a friend not long ago, and he just looked at me as if I had lost my mind. I guess you have to see it yourself to understand it.


jillian said...

beautiful writing, too good for the internet.

Jezrael said...

this is absolutely breathtaking, i write, like you, to get deep emotions & feelings out. so coming across this post, i must admit, brought tears to my eyes. its definitely something i will continue to read when i need a little help to get through the day.

its the little things...

Anonymous said...

Such a nice blog! You express your feelings such a beautiful way!
Happy New Year!