The Susurrations of Murmurations

I’m nearing the end of The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkein (fact: his middle names are in honour of his piratical uncles) and I am enamoured by the way that birds have become part of the climactic drama– listening, flocking and acting as messengers and heralds:

Very great indeed was the commotion among all things with wings that dwelt on the borders of the Desolation of the Dragon. The air was filled with circling flocks, and their swift-flying messengers flew here and there across the sky. Above the borders of the Forest there was whistling, crying and piping. Far over Mirkwood tidings spread: “Smaug is dead!” Leaves rustled and startled ears were lifted.

(from Chapter XIV Fire and Water)

This image of the swarming crows above the mobilising Elven army is so epic:

So it was that Bard’s messengers found him now marching with many spearmen and bowmen; and crows were gathered thick, above him, for they thought that war was awakening again, such as had not been in those parts for a long age.

In Tolkein’s story, the land knows things, the trees know things and the birds are connected to the land and its people. I think there’s truth in that.

It may sound crack-pot but I often see birds at significant moments — sometimes distinctly so. For instance, there are bright red cardinals here. They are not rare but you don’t see them that often and so when one lands right outside your window, you tend to take note. I often wonder if these creatures, who are so attuned to the wind, might also be extra sensitive to other unseen forces?

One morning last week, I was feeling discouraged and I was driving to work and I saw a murmuration. And I can’t tell you, but it felt like this huge reminder of greater stories and beauty that remains, promissory and faithful, even when my morning sucks. It felt like a gift actually.

My friend shared this beautiful murmuration video today and it reminded me of that morning and now all evening long, I have been thinking about birds. Just what is it about those ineffable birds?

{Via Vimeo. Filmmaker, Neels Castillon. Director of Photography, Mathias Touzeris. The music is Hand-Made by Alt-J.}

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