Birds of a feather
Day after day, I marvel at the easy beauty of this small river valley and wonder how the natural world relates to my personal sphere.
I am always looking for a message from the animals, trees, rocks or anything else that may have something to say.
It is probably naïve and self-centered to think I can properly interpret whatever signs there may be, but I can’t help trying.
Many years ago, my torts professor, Charles Luther, asked those of us in his first-year class if we thought rocks and trees had rights.
At the time I was confused by the question and worried it was yet another trick designed to convince us we did not have the appropriate tools to master complex legal issues.
As we came to learn, however, Chuck was a dyed-in-the-wool conservationist. Our love for him brought us a greater understanding of the wider world and a closer relationship with the environment.
As a result of his tutelage, I have come to realize that rocks and trees not only have rights, they have a life independent of their two-legged cohabitants.
A few weeks ago, I spotted a flock of Canada geese descending over the red rock cliffs, obviously aiming for the sanctuary of the Jones farm.
From the way they were careening from side to side, squawking loudly and incessantly, I began to think they may have had a hard night of carrying on and were trying to get home before sunup.
Their tightly defined V had become a loose W, as they skittered through the sky on final approach. I became concerned there may be more than a few injured geese if they didn’t quickly pull themselves together.
By the time I made my way back to the trading post, the geese were satisfactorily settled, eating alfalfa stubble and strutting around the hay field.
From the looks of things, they had all made the descent safely.
As the vision of their flight over the bluffs replayed in my mind, I began to think the management of the flock was similar to the management of Twin Rocks... wild and often out of control.
The following week, I was once again out on the land when I spotted hundreds of black starlings winging their way from one tree to the next.
After the flock settled, one of the birds would become dissatisfied with its perch and lift off, upending the entire bunch.
The flock would then take flight, circle the adjacent trees and reestablish themselves after a few moments. This cycle was repeated countless times.
It was at that point I realized the geese and blackbirds were clearly sending me a message about our management.
After thoroughly analyzing the situation, I became satisfied the birds were right and determined it was time for a change, things were going to be different at the store.
Not long after my bird experiences, I picked up a copy of a book written by a local author who had unexpectedly and prematurely passed on.
When she died, I had been troubled by her death because I had let local politics get in the way of knowing her. She was gone, and I had too late discovered the beauty of her words.
There was much I wanted to say that would go unsaid and many questions I wanted to ask that would remain unanswered.
As I read her latest book, I realized that she, like Chuck Luther, was genuinely in touch with the natural world.
I am not sure what it was in her verses that struck me so deeply, but all of the sudden I knew the birds had not been referring to the trading post management at all, they were commenting on my life.
I am the one who bounces from side to side as I walk down the halls of life, scuffling and scraping myself as I go.
I am the one who staggers through life like a drunk who has had too much party and too little sleep the night before.
I am the one who bounces from project to project.
And I am the one who struts around my hay field honking and carrying on like I know everything and listening to no one.
Those birds had known all along, and I just didn’t see it until now. There is only one thing to do; tomorrow I am petitioning to join the flock. If I can only find a way to fly, I will fit right in.
I wonder how it will be living on the farm and what I will do when the weather warms and the geese return to their northern home.
For now, I will have to get a down jacket and some Gore-Tex and start working on my Canadian visa. After years of searching for a sign, it seems I have finally found my rightful place in the cosmos, and we birds of a feather will squawk together.