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.
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 there… the 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.