Peace or Panic: What the Birds Told Me

            Recently I looked out the window as a flock of starlings streamed into view. It looked like a scene from a horror movie where the townsfolk all flee from the monster; or maybe closing time at the amusement park when everyone heads for the exits. The birds alighted in my yard, and in the neighbor’s yard, and in the pines and shrubs nearby. I walked outside and stood still, listening to the starlings screech, squeal, and chirp. A number of them strutted on the sunny lawn in their swaggering, head-bobbing way, pecking every few steps at something in the grass.

            Suddenly the flock rose into the air with a thrumming whoosh, as if a meeting had adjourned and all the attendees simultaneously pushed back their chairs and rushed off to work. My ears were filled with the sound of a hundred beating wings. The birds whipped and dodged through the air, seeking refuge in the pines and shrubs.

            Gradually they settled and, a few at a time, returned to the ground, again staggering and pecking in the grass. They repeated this startled flight and return to calm several times. I wondered what caused the mass hysteria. Had I missed a starting shot?

            Once I found myself in the midst of a flock of seagulls. They rode the air, gliding in a swirling dance. I felt like I was in the center of a snow globe, with the gulls whirling around me. They circled slowly, as if they spun on the ends of invisible strings. I imagine they had their eyes closed.

            Starlings and seagulls. Maybe they’re just showing me the way life is. Some people rush back and forth in a panic while others dance.


Margaret Rodeheaver