Life, Blooming

A morning in the woods.

Beneath a crisp and clouded sky, the earth is vibrating.

It all began with a brilliant sunrise of fiery orange that first licked the tips of the tallest pines with burning rays, like a shock of lightning, before it consumed the forest in a wildfire. Then the clouds rolled over the trees and settled in the valley, heavy and cold.

We’re deep into fall now and the sparrows are moving by the thousands through this etching of farms and forest. In the damp grass and dying shrubbery, birds are foraging frantically and flushing like fireworks as I near. White-throated sparrows whine their whistles and swamp sparrows shake on staggering cattails. They are only passing through, fleeing this cold front for warmer skies; if only they can dodge the great hurricanes that rage in the south. Soon, these fields will be somber, echoing with the rasps of blue jays that scatter from the forests.

The energy of this place begins with the spectacular colors of sunrise, glowing brightly in the east. Then the sparrows awake, swarming over the fields like locusts and whirling as a Cooper’s hawk glazes the open spaces. From the depths of dawn, a kestrel awakens and kites high above the plowed fields, flapping in place like a hummingbird. From a distance, she is merely a point of movement, but when she folds her wings and drops into a flock of ecstatic junco’s, all the energy of life seems to draw from the world — sucking out my breath — and concentrates on her rapid descent. The juncos flush in every direction, escaping the growing gravity of the kestrel’s murderous flight. This, until at last the pursuit is terminated and the kestrel arcs harshly upward with nothing to eat, and the junco’s settle back into the corn stubble.

Here, these pockets of intense energy seem to bloom and fade with the patterns of life. Following a pair of raucous pileated woodpeckers into the wood on buoyant and flashing wings, the deep green space is lit awake, popping with the songs and chips and excited energy of a thousand creatures. Kinglets whistle a frantic staccato and a blue-headed vireo peers skeptically at me through a shining white eye ring before vanishing into the abyss — headed south, headed north, headed to a life never again seen by man.

Further into the wet, dying woods, it is quiet. Leaves drift from their life source, swaying toward the damp earth. White pines stand stolidly in the cold. The only sound is of the wind. In this corner of land, the world still and empty.

And so the day goes, blossoming and fading like the seasons.