Black River of Air

The sound was like the rushing of water.  Big water, moving fast, rising and falling and swirling.  It was the sound of movement, and in the center of it was a cacophony of voices, querulous and insistent.  Under the voices and the onslaught of motion was a bass line, a percussive hollow thumping as of oars in deep water.  It was all woven together in a bewilderment of auditory information that assaulted the reason.  Seated at my computer, fingers poised above the beckoning keys, I froze.  What on earth is that noise?


Thrusting my head out the front door, I saw a sky filled with whizzing black comets, a feathered sky with a thousand bright black eyes and sharp faces, claws out-thrust and wings beating the air like a war drum.  Within seconds, the flying shards of night had stuck to the naked branches of the hedgerow and resolved themselves into a clan of blackbirds.  A second flight descended into the cornfield with barely a rustle, and the green lawn was peppered with stragglers.  Then began the hoarse bickering of a lively marketplace,  hundreds of voices speaking at once and with some emphasis, shredding the air like paper with their sharp rasps.  The sound of all that exuberant conversation climbed inside my skull until it hummed and whispered like a shell filled with tidal secrets.  The trees seemed to have bloomed in ebony foliage that shook and shuddered and leapt from branch to branch.

Part of the colony exploded toward the clouds with the vacuum effect of a thunderclap.  It wheeled and dipped, and another section of the hedgerow caught black fire.  The group among the cornstalks rose, dropping long dun banners of leaf and the occasional feather, took stock of the topography, and settled again to their quarrelsome feast.  For several hours, the birds rested and foraged.  Then, as one, they took wing and the black river of air rushed on.




6 thoughts on “Black River of Air

  1. I’m envious today. I wish with all my heart I had seen it. These great black wing beats we are dealt: they show us we are small in the scheme of things. Life moves past us like currents in a river. You have written just beautifully about the undertow of life today.

    1. How beautifully philosophical, Kate! You’re right; the blackbirds streaming through our little farm community was very much like the river of life moving by. Something so grand, and so orchestrated does point out our own smallness – and yet, each of us is integral to the whole.

  2. Fantastic description, Elizabeth. Beautifully written. The noise of their wings is just incredible, isn’t it.

    1. Thanks, Andra! This was just an amazing sight (and sound). The photos don’t do justice to the sheer mass of birds that descended. Though it wasn’t the first time I had seen immense migrating flocks like this, it boggles me every time and makes me want to fly, too.

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