All the Singing

In the time of COVID-19, when humans no longer crowd the streets, when airplanes no longer fill the sky, our mornings are once again becoming filled with birdsong.

Whenever I need to retreat from the world’s bleaker narratives, I find it helps me to think of birds. Sometimes they’re metaphorical birds, as in Mary Oliver’s White-Eyes:

In winter 
    all the singing is in 
         the tops of the trees 
             where the wind-bird 

with its white eyes 
    shoves and pushes 
         among the branches. 

Or a range of birds of all kinds through several centuries, as in The Poetry of Birds, edited by Simon Armitage and Tim Dee.

Or a photograph of vultures in India, seen here nesting on an ancient monument in Orchcha, Madhya Pradesh. Vultures are still in heartstopping danger despite grand announcements of recovery plans.

Then there’s the annual miracle of bird migration. It’s easy to become mesmerized by the flowing patterns of flight on the remarkable animated map from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, created from millions of observations from the eBird citizen science database, and documenting the migratory movements of 118 different species.

Or this account of the massive scale and the fragile balance of the Amur falcon migration that goes in an east-west as well as a north-south direction, 2,400 miles from eastern Asia to wintering grounds in southern Africa.

“All the singing voices,” Mary Oliver says. And all the soaring wings. I try to carry them in me, to the best of my ability.

2 thoughts on “All the Singing

  1. Thank you for that lovely poem, Uma, and all those wonderful bird texts and resources. Even in the city, I feel like I am hearing more birds, and I have more time to observe them.

    I was just telling my kids last night about the one and only time I saw vultures. I was on a bus in winter in Himachal Pradesh, and I looked out the window and saw the most enormous birds I had ever seen. They were fascinating but also terrifying. I’m glad I was viewing them from a distance!

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