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,

we can think to ourselves:

ah yes, this is how it’s meant to be.

Blackbirds

I’m always taken by a poem that seems to speak directly to my experience of the moment we are all in together. This is one of those poems.

The imagery in these first two stanzas clearly brings to mind what I have only seen videos of – a murmuration of birds moving as one. She introduces us to the sound, a rustling, ruffling quietness in the spring air – can’t you just hear that? Then there is the visual picture of all these blackbirds rounding a curve I didn’t know was therethe whole flock taking a long, wide turn / as if of one body and one mind. I, too, have had that very same thought: how do they do that? A beautiful mystery.

Now she skillfully slides us into the realm of human society saying what a puny existence if we were only to live with its cruelty and fear / its apathy and exhaustion. But instead. Instead we live in this curving and soaring world where sometimes mercy and tenderness triumph, sometimes we even manage to unite and move together / toward a common good.

Is this not what we have witnessed these past two weeks in particular – the terrible cruelty and fear, followed by human beings moving together as one in this curving and soaring world to create a common good. So yes, I believe we can say to ourselves, ah yes, this is how it’s meant to be.

May all beings move together toward a common good.

10 thoughts on “Blackbirds by Julie Cadwallader-Staub

  1. So lovely, thank you for this. I was hiking this morning, having my movements supported and surrounded by the forests of trees, the falling rain and by the calls and songs of so many birds – I found myself thinking about how interconnected we all are, whether we forget or re-member this fact. There was such a lovely rhythm to the beginning of this one glorious day. This poem and your ‘elaboration’ has added such a beautiful image to my mind.. the swooping, swirling movement of the black birds.. and then, even more, the image of all beings moving, with some, perhaps unseen, symmetry toward common good. Thank you for stirring my heart.

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    • I can picture you walking in the forest in the rain and birdsong Rena, feeling our interconnectedness – as you say, such a lovely rhythm. Thank you for sharing your experience – my heart is stirred in response. xoxoxox

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  2. Jan, thank you for this. One day last week my husband and I joined a local protest that was in process not far from our house. A couple of thousand people marching to protest police brutality after George Floyd’s murder. We caught up with them as they knelt for 9 minutes on the pavement of the Walmart parking lot. We kept our distance out of respect for the virus so I was on rise looking down on the crowd as they rose as one, turned and began to move as one, down the drive into the main thoroughfare as one, mostly in silence. A murmuration of humans moving like a current of air, a river for justice. “May all beings move together toward a common good.” Indeed.

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  3. Dear Wendy, what a thrilling, mesmerizing image, “a murmuration of humans moving like a current of air”, how beautiful to know this exists. deep thanks and love xoxoxo

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  4. I remember years ago when David’s mom was in the hospital dying – yet very much alive in those last few weeks – she expressed great pleasure watching as thousands of blackbirds filled the sky each evening and flew in groups, together in patterns which were mesmerizing to watch – above the landscape turning and swooping and gliding in a dance of breath taking beauty and synchrony. Their dance filled her with peace.
    Thank you Jan once again for sharing a beautiful poem and commenting in a way that brings it even more alive. Lisa xoxo

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  5. Dear Lisa, what a peaceful message of your mother-in-law’s pleasure in watching the birds in synchronous flight – the dance of which we are all a part. thank you for sharing this xoxoxo

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  6. Powerful! In working with the horses have come to appreciate their energetic connection and so too have been captured by the birds and sea life as well. LOVE how this poem and your words share this reality of what is available to us. Thanks so much Jan xo

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