On a recent morning, as I drove into my office complex, the morning sky was nearly covered with pewter clouds, the kind that look like a lid to the world. On one side there was a small opening in the clouds through which the low morning sun shone, almost horizontal to the ground. The sun’s rays made the clouds look regal, illuminating their gray/silver. My eye caught a flock of birds, maybe 40 or so, flitting in a formation that was unformed enough to appear random, but in sync enough to be a non-designed design made cooperatively, literally on the fly, each bird having a mind of its own but committed to the flock. The flock moved in rapid tandem, this way and that, unpredictable. They were too far away for me to tell what kind of birds they were. The breast side of their bodies was white, and as they angled and turned in the sky, whenever their white faced the sun, they looked like gleaming porcelain bejeweling a magnificent gray medallion in the sky. I stopped my car and stared, admiring the lovely handiwork given to me that morning. They flew out of my eyesight, behind some trees, so I drove to a different parking lot to get a better view.
I thought of a poem I had read that morning:
by Alan Feldman
If you stripped a dog of its social eagerness,
gave it a loping indifference to human presence
and starved it, you’d have a coyote,
stalking like a shadow among the garbage cans
at the top of Pearl Street, near the Fine Arts Work Center.
We’re heading back to our car through a fine mist,
the streetlights haloing amid the black trees,
and we stop, watching him appear and disappear
gaunt as a Giacometti. He’s nothing
like a dog bounding into the street.
Does he care if this is a street?-or just a hard place
under his paws. Ever since childhood
I’ve tried to be alert to what people are up to,
but why not see the coyote’s point of view?-
how he prefers to ignore them,
following his own track through the darkness.
I drove around the parking lot, looking for a good spot to see them again. I had only seen them for a few seconds, but I was already enamored and wanted more. That configuration of sky, sun, and birds—and time of day—would never happen to me again, I knew, so I sought it hungrily. It didn’t seem right to tease me with that scene and so quickly take it away forever. But it was too late. They were gone. The clouds eventually moved. And the earth turned.
Another coyote doing its own thing, oblivious to me.