Monday, June 8, 2020

Blackbirds

Have you ever watched starlings and how they move dance in coordination through the air like schools of flying fish?


The patterns they make are called murmurations. It's basic physics, actually. They fly in a vortex or V shape called an upwash. The undulations they make arise from what's called a critical transition or a literal physical reaction from bumping into one another when they feel alarmed by something. The tipping point for that sharp turn is a phase transition that could be caused by a bird of prey flying into them, finding a place to roost or nest for the night, or other alarm sounded by the birds in the front to avoid a preying hawk or owl. 

The birds in the back have lower heart rates and conserve energy as they fly in this V formation. They feel a sense of safety in numbers. Even when those numbers are not all starlings. 

Birds in these flocks are often mixed. Blackbirds (red-winged blackbirds), starlings, common grackles, brown-headed cowbirds, and others. A "mixed flock", seeking perpetual safety.

Blackbirds
by  Julie Cadwallader Staub

I am 52 years old, and have spent
truly the better part
of my life out-of-doors
but yesterday I heard a new sound above my head
a rustling, ruffling quietness in the spring air

and when I turned my face upward
I saw a flock of blackbirds
rounding a curve I didn't know was there
and the sound was simply all those wings
just feathers against air, against gravity
and such a beautiful winning
the whole flock taking a long, wide turn
as if of one body and one mind.

How do they do that?

Oh if we lived only in human society
with its cruelty and fear
its apathy and exhaustion
what a puny existence that would be

but instead we live and move and have our being
here, in this curving and soaring world
so that when, every now and then, mercy and tenderness triumph in our lives
and when, even more rarely, we manage to unite and move together
toward a common good,

and can think to ourselves:

ah yes, this is how it's meant to be.



"In times like ours, visions of “how it’s meant to be” can feel pretty thin—and sometimes we make them even thinner by succumbing to the cynical voice that says, “Yeah, right...” But I know of no movement for positive change that was not animated by such a vision.

Visions help keep hope alive and draw us forward. They also open our eyes to those precious moments when “how it’s meant to be” is how it is—right here, right now, with these people working together for something better. Once you’ve seen the ideal become real, you can no longer deny that it’s possible on this planet and in this life!
" Parker J Palmer


A mixed flock -  to heal, to move forward, to say the world: We will not stay the same. We will no longer tolerate cruelty nor live in fear. We will rise through the peaceful, graceful gathering of a mixed flock, while unveiling the trauma and bringing it out in the open sky. To see it ALL for all it's pain. 

Turning pain into the tender triumph of our time. 


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