The Catalyst

A Writing Teacher Writes (plus some writing prompts and recipes)

Ruminations on Murmurations August 24, 2012

Filed under: Vignettes,Writing Prompts + — Christopher DeLorenzo @ 5:29 pm

For this prompt, I showed the following video to my writing group, and we wrote in response. The video sometimes loads slowly, so it’s best to start it, pause it, and let it load all the way before watching it. It’s of a great Starling murmuration, which is a flying formation that you may have seen before: great clouds of birds flying together in swirling movements across the sky. Watch the video and see what you write in response.

What I wrote is below.

The birds seem to know how to do this: flying in flocks, sometimes in V formations, or great black clouds of murmurations. They create space for one another. I’ve seen flocks of geese migrating with one bird missing, the empty space held there in honor of their loss.

Maybe we’re not so different, though we sometimes stampede, riot, trample, rush toward an opening. Still, in great masses, we also yield, converge, merge into one another. And like birds, some of us mate for life, some of us come home to roost.

I always think of birds as part of an ecosystem, keeping insect populations in check, spreading seeds. But somehow humans have become removed from Earth. Our houses have windows that snap shut, our doors lock tight. We flush our waste down metal drains, or we bury it in landfills, where it may never decompose.

It would be a beautiful planet without us, wouldn’t it?

“You need to get outside and walk,” my chiropractor says. “Swings your arms more every day,” he says when I question him about what to do with these aching shoulders. And it occurs to me how seldom I walk, how infrequently I am actually outside. I go from chair to car to exercise machine—INSIDE—always inside, so on those rare days when I am outside all day, I come home surprised by how good I feel. How my joints feel loose, how I can smell the sun in my hair, how deeply I sleep.

Only last week, I walked out onto the edge of Tomales Bay, Point Reyes stretching out before me, the reedy shoreline filled with cattails. In the distance, the hot sun on the dry, gold hills was a paler peach, so they looked painted, and I thought, This doesn’t look real.

But of course it was. More real than the dark mazes of a dance club, the little tweakers zig-zagging their way from bar to bathroom. More real than the steel tube of the jet I climb into, baggage overhead, and then blast off into the sky. There could be over a hundred people on that plane, none of us speaking to one another. Ironic, that flock of us, flying higher than the birds, looking down on the foreign landscape below. The colors and shapes like a video of another familiar planet, simulated for our enjoyment, but totally unreal.

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