In all the mountains,
In the treetops
Not a breath of wind.
The birds are silent in the woods.
Just wait: soon enough
You will be quiet too.
In all the mountains,
Source: sizvideos.com (Kingfisher diving underwater to catch fish in slow motion)
NOW and AGAIN the earth begins to desire rest. And in the weeks of autumn especially it shows its disposition to calm, to what feels like a stasis, a pause. The ocean retains its warmth, while high white cloud-boats ride out of the west. Now the birds of the woods are often quiet, but on the shore, the migrating sanderlings and plovers are many and vocal, rafts of terns with the year’s young among them come with the incoming tides, and plunge into the waves, and rise with silver leaves in their beaks. One can almost see the pulsing of their hearts, vigorous and tiny in the trim of white feathers. Where I live, on the harbor edge of the Cape’s last town, perfect strangers walking along the beach turn and say to each other, without embarrassment or hesitation: isn’t it beautiful.
~ Mary Oliver, Where I Live from Long Life: Essays and Other Writings
“Have you heard? Or more accurately, not heard? Vicious fires and vanishing ice floes aside, there’s yet another ominous sign that all is not well with the natural world: it’s getting quiet out there. Too quiet. […]
This is the chilling news: Bit by bit, bird by bird, species by species, gurgling brook by gushing river, the song of wild nature is, in many places, falling deathly silent…In short: What once was a rich, varied symphony of sound has become a far more subdued chamber orchestra, with large spaces of eerie silence where there was once a vast natural racket, signifying everything. […]
But overall, the tonal shift is undeniable, and deeply unsettling: There is now less birdsong than at any time in human history. Fewer lions’ roars, beehive hums, elephant rumbles, frog croakings, simply because we’ve killed off so many of them, and show no signs of slowing. One by one and species by category, the orchestra’s players are exiting the stage. The concert will never be over, but at this rate, it might be a very bleak final movement indeed.”
~ Mark Morford
Don’t miss his entire post here: The Silence of the Birds: When nature gets quiet, be very afraid
Helen Macdonald teaches at the University of Cambridge and her most recent bestselling book, ‘‘H Is for Hawk,’’ has won numerous awards. In this week’s NY Magazine, she writes about Judith Wakelam who rescues baby common swifts, “birds so exquisitely aerial that they eat, sleep and mate on the wing and spend the first two or three years of their lives migrating between Europe and Africa in continuous flight.” Macdonald calls on wildlife rehab experts to explain why people rescue wildlife: “…there’s something inside humans when they’re faced with a helpless creature. We have an imperative. A duty…I believe most people, especially children, simply cannot see an animal suffer…The Lindsay rehab center receives everything from bobcats to snakes, ducklings to songbirds, brought in by concerned members of the public who have driven many miles to deliver them…rescuing animals draws out ‘‘raw emotions that unleash our deepest insecurities about our humanity, mortality and place in the natural world.’’ Macdonald then closes with an evocative description of Wakelam releasing rehabbed baby common swifts back into the wild:
It stares into the wind. Then it starts shivering. Nothing has visibly changed, but something is happening. On Wakelam’s open palm a creature whose home has been paper towels and plastic boxes is turning into a different creature whose home is thousands of miles of air. It is as extraordinary a thing to witness as a dragonfly larva’s crawling out of the water and tearing itself out into a thing with wings. Then the swift decides. It hunches itself forward on its wings and drops from her flattened palm. ‘‘Up! Up! Up!’’ calls Wakelam. I’m terrified it will hit the ground. But it does not. For five or six seconds it flies with halting, unaccustomed wing beats a foot above the grass, then hitches and pulls into gear and starts to ascend, flickering upward until it becomes a remote pair of winnowing wings among all the other swifts up there. For weeks it has sat in a plastic box preening and snuggling with its foster siblings. Now it is gone, and Wakelam’s hand is its final memory of earth, the last thing it will touch for two years.
Don’t miss Helen Mcdonald’s full essay here: Rescuing Wildlife is Futile and Necessary
As I watch the eagle rise above the bay, I let myself drift out beyond an edge, as though I were moving across the edge of sleep…I am filled with the same disdainful surge that releases him from his perch, feel the strain of air trapped in the hollows of his wings…The eagle sweeps away in great, lazy arcs, drifts against the corniced peaks, and soars up toward the smooth layer of cloud…At three thousand feet, the feathered sails flex and shake against a torrent of wind…I can feel the lash of gusts as the eagle planes above the mountain, gaze through his eyes at the fissured, snow-laden peak, and share the craving that draws him more deeply into the island’s loneliness…I have flown, however artificially, and have looked down over the island and the strait. But I can never know what the eagle sees with those blazing eyes, what are the shapes of mountains and shores amid the maze of detail that leaps into his brain.
There is the eagle’s world, and there is mine, sealed beyond reach within our selves. But despite these insuperable differences, we are also one, caught in the same fixed gaze that contains us. We see the earth differently, but we see the same earth. We breathe the same air and feel the same wind, drink the same water and eat the same meat. We share common membership in the same community and are subject to the same absolutes. In this sense, the way we receive what surrounds us is irrelevant: I have the eagle’s eyes and the eagle has mine.
- Photograph: John de Grooth
- Related Richard Nelson / Eagle Post: Every stub. Every whisker. Every mole. Every freckle. Every eyelash.
The bird cranes his head down to watch me, so the plumage on his neck fluffs out. HIs head is narrow, pinched, tightly feathered; his eyes are silver-gold, astringent, and stare forward along the curved scythe of his beak. Burned into each eye is a constricted black pupil, like the tightly strung arrow of a crossbow aimed straight toward me. What does the eagle see when he looks at me, this bird who can spot a herring’s flash in the water a quarter-mile away? I suppose every stub of whisker on my face, every mole and freckle, every eyelash, the pink flesh on my eyelid, the red network of vessels on the white of my eye, the radiating colors of my iris, his own reflection on my pupil, or beneath this reflection, his inverted image on my retina. I see only the eagle’s eye, but wonder if he sees down inside mine. Or inside me perhaps.