My mom spent her growing-up years on a farm north of Orrville, Ohio. It doesn’t seem very far out of town now, with reliable cars that zip up to 60 miles an hour in no time at all, but it probably seemed more remote in the 40s. When she married Dad, she moved to Rittman. While not a metropolis by any stretch, there were always neighbors close enough to holler to, and later on, there were even sidewalks in front of the house.
When she built onto our house and moved out here to stay with us, she talked a lot about living in the country again. She mostly liked it, and she loved the sunsets. She hadn’t lived in a west-facing house for decades, and now she could sit on her front porch for the show. More than occasionally, I’d see the beginnings of a magnificent sunset, run out toward her apartment to tell her, and find her on the sidewalk, scurrying to the house to tell us.
She did not, however, like the birds. We get great flocks of them out here, more often at the change of the seasons, and they swarm and swirl around the house in dark flurries. She didn’t ever explain, but I think it felt sinister to her somehow.
The birds were back this morning, picking over a fresh-mown hayfield as I walked back the lane from meeting the school bus. They always remind me of Mom now, but … I like them.
I like their instant flight from stillness, and the harried thrumming as they gather speed. I like seeing them picking away at the leavings insignificant to the farmer, and knowing it will sustain them. I like the way they are individuals, and the way that they are not; the way the swarm lifts and turns in graceful arcs, one entity, controlled by things I don’t understand.
I even like knowing that Mom didn’t like them, because those are the things that make up a life. The tiny, the mundane, the petty – they’re how we know each other. They’re the separate bits that make up the gorgeous, intimidating swarm. And I do love the swarm.