This past week, I went north of San Rafael to Terra Linda at sunset to stand in an empty parking lot, looking for starlings. As the light fades, huge flocks of the glossy, black birds swirl high above the trees, streaming and swooping in unison above their communal roosting place in the oak and eucalyptus trees. They form a flying cloud, flowing, twisting and turning together like an aerial school of fish in a perfectly synchronized dance, pouring across the sky. This is the ‘murmuration’ – a mass of birds soaring and diving in beautiful shape-shifting patterns, flying in and out of the low dusky clouds, appearing and vanishing like magic. If you’ve seen them, you know how mesmerizing it is to see their fluid formations separate, glide far away then seamlessly merge in a whole new configuration as they flap their countless wings shoulder to shoulder, side by side, in perfect harmony.
During the last two days I’ve been watching the video clips I took of their choreographed flights over and over again when I needed some comfort and respite from the news. There was the cliffhanger Georgia election and the next morning, our President’s wild speech to supporters in DC. Two historic “firsts” unfolded, the first African-American senator from Georgia and only the 11th Black senator ever elected won! The next day brought the first siege of the Capitol in decades, a tragic, unpredictable roller coaster ride for everyone in this country. Yes, starlings bully native birds just as some humans bully others; still, I wish human beings would work together harmoniously like a murmuration, roosting together for warmth, warbling about the best feeding grounds, helping each other stay safe and survive.
It can be hard to settle down and meditate during divisive times in personal or communal life. Nerves are frayed. Like you, I need spiritual nourishment. The beauty and intelligence of Mother Nature is a safe and reliable refuge. Like the dharma, just like loving awareness, she is always here waiting for us to wake up to her abundant aliveness. Go for a quiet walk in the soft hills, take in a gorgeous winter sunset at the beach, look at a tree outside your window, water a plant – soak up the calm and steady presence of your home on this earth.
WATCH: Murmuration of Starlings in Marin taken by Trudy Goodman on YouTube.