The Birds

The earth beneath my feet, along the forested trail on which I was walking crunched from the abundance of acorns dropped there from the overhanging arboreal canopy. These intermingled with dried fallen leaves from this season as well as many seasons past from the looks of the leaf-carpeted forest floor. My footfalls disrupted the muted ambiance of the hushed woodland: crunch, crunch, crunch.

Throughout the tops, dried red oak leaves still clung resolutely to the early autumnal branches. These combined with their still living brothers and the soft suppurations of a breeze to produce an ethereal sound like the rustle of wings. Indeed, bird wings did flutter in the crowns. Hundreds of birds had gathered in the overhead branches chattering in the aimless manner of flocking birds. These birds were black and the occasional caw caused me to suspect crows.

These birds, however, were too small to be crows or ravens; more likely, they were starlings was my guess, those ubiquitous avian inhabitants of nearly the entire North American continent. These continued their nattering and periodically dive-bombed about my head, presumably females safeguarding their nests. All of this left me with a lingering apprehension, a sensation like something out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

As I progressed along the wooded pathway, the birds followed keeping up their incessant prattle. The forest quietude, usually inviolable, capitulated to the crunch of my steps, the flutter of wings and leaves as well as the insistent cries of the birds. As my course took me out into the open, where the trail met the blacktop, the birds tagged along rising from the tree-tops like a cloud of animate black smoke, swirling and swelling in seeming respiration.

On this sun-splashed day, swaths of cirrus clouds daubed the cerulean skies, like the brush strokes of some colossal artisan. Against this backdrop, the birds performed their synchronized ballet almost as if they were of a single mind. Interesting this, the way bird flocks, fish schools and other animals that tend to move in tightly focused groupthink, will travel this way and that in apparent synchronicity, presumably propelled by instinct alone or the leadership of certain dominant individuals.

These all-for-one one-for all endeavors are lamentably tantamount to current political conduct. The masses tend to allow themselves to be led around by the nose at the whim (and at the mercy) of the national media, principally television. Groupthink may work wonders in the animal kingdom but we can but hope humans are above all that and will make decisions based on something more reasoned than mere instinct.

© Stephen Alexander 2008

The Birds

stephen hewitt

Lanexa, United States

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Artist's Description

A spooky little tale – with apologies to that master fim-maker: Alfred Hitchcock

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