Yesterday, I was out at the CSA—the local, community supported agriculture farm- where I’m a member. It’s getting close to the end of the growing season. The night before we had our first major frost and you could see, walking past plantings, to the barn, which plants had been hit. The basil seemed hardest hit—leaves all dried and shriveled and blackened.
The harvest was mostly root vegetables—celeriac, rutabaga, yams, carrots, garlic, plus what was probably the last of the leafy stuff—broccoli and broccoli rabe, kale, arugala, bok choy, asian turnip greens, and green peppers.
I took the share spelled out on the blackboard—2.5 pounds of yams, 1.5 pounds of carrots, a head of broccoli, two greens, three peppers, five garlics, one rutabaga… and then I checked the “U-pick” board. That tells you what you can optionally pick, on your own, in the fields. There wasn’t much left—just some herbs and flowers. And for the flowers, the board said something to the effect, “not much still alive, but optimists will find some.” I’m an optimist. I went in search of flowers.
On the way back to the car with the harvest, I saw something catch the light. It was a spiderweb on some of the herbs in the herb garden.
I drove over to the garden and started looking. There were plenty of flowers to find
Then I heard a noise. I looked up and there were birds-- a lot of them. All of a sudden, the noise changed from a few birds to a rushing sound, a brief thrumming of the air. And the air was filled with thousands of birds. Thousands!. They were all flying at once, from one tree to another one a hundred yards away. The thrumming sound was being produced by thousands of birds, wings beating in unison, flying as a huge sky-blackening mass—an awesome sight to behold-- to see and literally feel the vibrations— ending almost as soon as it began. I pulled out my camera phone and caught the thinning tail of the flock.
I stopped picking flowers. Took some pictures of the straggling birds that were following and then walked across the road to the trees where the mass of birds had flown, turning on the video function on my blackberry.
I could see a few scattered birds flying from tree to tree in an area where there was a partial ring of trees surrounding a small field. Video settings on my blackberry ready, I walked to the middle of the circle of trees and it happened again. Suddenly, there was this whooshing sound and the birds started flying out of the grasses, out of the trees and again, the sky blackened. I had the camera going, but all it caught was a momentary pixilated shimmering of part of the screen and the sound. It could not have lasted more than three or four seconds.
The flock spread out as it flew into and across a field to another stand of trees a quarter mile away. Within seconds, this huge movement of birds disappeared.
There was a lot of magic in those few moments when all the birds were taking off simultaneously, when their wings, together caused the air to hum deeply for a few seconds, followed by an almost eerie silence broken by the few flying stragglers.
It gave me an optimistic feeling and made me think that perhaps we’ll experience this kind of mass movement shimmering moment on election day, where millions will wake up and, almost in unison, send the US and the world soaring, on a new day, towards a better place.