Thursday, December 1, 2011

Sorry for the wait/Where the birds go

A soft and distant click accompanies the soft yellow light that shines in the soft outline of a door. Within moments, footsteps can be heard hesitantly approaching. There's a snap as the latch loosens from its mooring, and hinges begin creak inwards. The yellow outline of a door begins to fill itself in as the light pours into the room like melting butter. A figure can be seen in silhouette, looking inwards but not entering, not yet.
Motes of dust swirl in the light, twirling around, the air currents from the hallway and the now open door giving them life they haven't felt in months. The silhouette watched their dance, their rise and fall, little tornadoes in the breeze. Slowly, he moved into the room, sat at the desk that was now barely illuminated, and tugged on the chain for the lamp that sat on its top. He began to speak:
“I'm sorry. I haven't been here in a while. There were a lot of things that had me occupied in the interim, but they're really nothing but excuses. I always had one reason or another not to come in here and do one of the few things that give me uninterrupted joy, and I let them overwhelm me and had all but given up. I know I've disappointed a few with the lack of my presence, but in the end I'm only letting myself down.
“You see, this kind of writing allows me some level of honesty, of freedom, and I take it for granted more often than not. It's not often outside of having children that people get to create something that they love utterly and completely, and it's an incredibly scary thing. Something that becomes bigger than an idea. Once it's there, once it has come to fruition, it's scary. You don't want to change it for fear of making it somehow worse, or less than it was.
“I had managed somehow to put out a few things here that, at least to me, were inspired, and impressed even myself- a feat that comes nowhere near often enough. I was scared that I would be held to this standard, that to produce anything less than what I had laid out previously would be detrimental to me in the eyes of my audience. What I needed to remember however, is that I don't write for my audience. I rarely have. Yes, I like people to read what I write, but that hasn't quite always been the goal. The goal was just to write. If I could figure out a way to do it as a living that would be wonderful, but I know that at this juncture of my life my writing is far from fully formed. It ebbs and flows, and is almost impossible to force.
“The last few things I have written I thoroughly enjoyed throughout the whole process, and I know that some of that shines through to the reader. I also know that I can't keep up a pace of weekly posting and consistently produce the same level of quality. So I will make you a promise, and all you have to do is agree. If you don't agree, well, just... click somewhere else. I won't be offended, but I may be a little upset.
“What I promise you is this: I will maintain a weekly posting. Starting now. Guarantee, rain or shine, vacation or work, as long as I have fingers to type you'll get something from me. Just agree that you won't be upset if it isn't always grade A prime material. I'm sure the more often I do it, the better the overall frequency of quality material will be, so stick around. This place is so new, I didn't mean to let this much dust get in. Don't worry, all of this was temporary. I'll get it cleaned up and running in just a few hours.”
With a deep breath, he blew a gust of air towards the desk, filling the room with dust as far as the eye could see.

Where The Birds Fly South

I haven't done a single bit of actual research for this, so if it seems wrong to you at all, blame my memory, it's the only one at fault.

I don't know if I’m the only person this happens to, but every now and then I'll see one small, seemingly insignificant thing, and it sets my mind whirling as to why I’ve never seen or noticed it before. Sometimes seeing a droplet of water hit a basin, or splash through the surface of a still puddle, forming a second droplet with its equal but opposite Newtonian force, my brain reels with the thoughts of chaos theory and fluid dynamics and particle physics. Not subjects I’m particularly well-versed in mind you, but I at least know what they are and that they effect the world we reside in. It was on my way into work today that I had such a moment.
There I was, the first day of December, driving through my small town in North Carolina, when a hawk swooped down next to me, traveling the same speed I was, scooped up some small critter and flew away without slowing or skipping a beat. It caught my eye, and the train of thought was unleashed. First, I had a number of thoughts along the lines of the unstoppable force of nature, and how the world will keep going on as long as it can pretending that we aren't here. A lot of that sort of 'Mother Earth will kick our ass hard someday' notion. It was only a little later that the real thought behind that one came to the surface.
This is where the birds go in the winter.
I was born and raised in a small town in upstate New York, smaller than the one I live in now. A lot of people don't believe me when I tell them that bit, but a quick check of the 2010 Census numbers says that the county I live in now has over three times the population than the one I came from, and everyone who lives here knows how small this place is. Couple that with the fact that, for whatever reason you like, people living in this part of the country are much less likely to fill out their Census reports, and under-reporting is fairly common, and that number is more likely to be four times as high instead of three. This is all a bit beside the point though.
Our winters got cold. I often trick-or-treated in 6 inches of snow. The birds? They all left town by the end of September. Throughout the late summer and early fall, right around the time of the first frost, you would see them in their Vs, or sometimes in just a giant cloud, all getting the hell out of Dodge. It would last for six or so weeks, all day, all in the same direction. Sometimes you'd have some stragglers in December still trying to make their way south, and even on occasion one or two that said fuck it and decided to stick it out.
When you woke up on a frigid January morning, nearly three feet of snow on the ground, and stepped outside, the world wasn't just silent, it was Silent. It defined the absence of sound. Everything was muffled so well that even the humming of the transformer across the street didn't make its way very far. When the first melts came in late February, that's when you'd hear it. Birdsong. Only one or two at first, but more and more as the days went on. The same mad rush from months before, but now heading in the opposite direction, with a large portion of them staying where I was when they arrived. Through the next half of the year, the birdsong would be as easily taken for granted as the absence of it had been just a few months prior.
And here I was, the first day of December, watching a bird flying around for food, not for migration. Birds and their songs are always around. Sometimes they sing a little later in the morning here, as most birds still keep going a little further than North Carolina, and the ones that are here wait for the sun to warm them up a bit before they begin their warbling. But they never really go away.
It's such a small thing to notice, but I've lived more than half of my life in North Carolina now, and while the culture shock was very noticeable in the first weeks after I had relocated, it soon faded into the background after I became accustomed to the new surroundings. Seeing that hawk made me realize that as a kid, all I knew is that the birds flew south for the winter. I guess I used to imagine them stretching themselves out in beach chairs by the ocean somewhere in Florida, sipping fancy drinks in coconuts with umbrellas, but I never even questioned the details of it. All I needed to know is that when it got cold, they skipped town, and when it warmed up, they came back and rebuilt their ruined nests.
Only now, fourteen years later, did it occur to me: I'm living in a place where the birds fly south to be. What a world.

1 comment:

  1. Snow rarely started melting in Feb. You did perk my memories from NY too.