I knew without being able to see them that a few thousand feet up, there would be star-reading birds migrating north out of this heat toward our unrolling Wyoming mountain summer: owls, thrushes, orioles, sparrows. I knew that for some birds, migration is almost all they do, nonstop, hundreds of miles north, hundreds of miles south, back and forth, a ceaseless rustle of wings, years shaved off their wild lives with all the effort of near perpetual motion. Once, twenty-five years ago, camping near a waterfall on the Zambian border with Zaire, I had caught a glimpse of a distant flock of birds traveling at night against a full moon, fleeting black cut-out shapes, intent on destination. Often since then, I’ve searched the night sky, and although I have caught the brief twist of bats flitting through currents of insects, I have never again seen that nighttime miracle of birds, secretly stitching together south and north with their hunger, with their collective, insistent, mounting realization of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. […]
And in any case, what life had taught me is that where we come from is a point— not the starting point, not the defining point— just a point. It’s where we are that really counts.
Photo: Joe Chan