The sun is bright and the air is cold and outside my window a flock of birds flies in endless coils as if it is made of smoke.
The flock is not going anywhere. They stay in the same area. The flock is sinuous, as if it is one thing and not many. It boils upward, spiraling and flowing and rising until some invisible signal sends it downward. It turns around itself, coiling like a half-substantial snake, feathers and flashes of air as ephemeral as smoke, as mist, as the cold October fogs in the early mornings. The birds do not follow each other, as there is no time for following, only time for being. The flock is itself, but it’s not going anywhere.
I wonder if there is something wrong with the birds. Perhaps they should be flying south as the cold air smuggles itself in from the north. Birds have a sense of the world, of the magnetic poles. They are pulled. Except this flock of smoke is not going anywhere; it is stuck in an endless loop.
Perhaps the flock’s compass is broken. The glass is cracked and the needle is dancing and the flock twists and turns in emulation of a needle pointing nowhere.
I see the flock and I wonder if it is not so different than most of us. We think we’re following an arrow forward, but we’re really flying in circles, doubling back again and again until we’re tied in invisible knots. Our compasses are broken, and we do not take the time to think, to stop and consult a map (a map that may not exist), and instead we just move, a flock of feathers and hungry beaks searching for a horizon that we’ve forgotten we were looking for.
The frost at the bottom of the window melts as the flock of smoke wings about, and I wonder if I’m wrong; I wonder if the flock knows itself—knows itself so well that it will take this time to rejoice and dance and twirl because it feels the cold air and knows the journey is upon it, a journey that is long and hard, a journey that not all the flock will survive. Members of the flock, little bits of itself, will fall from the sky and not rise again. But the flock will live and journey and continue onward and a destination will be reached. And there will be another journey and another destination after that. And there will be small deaths and cold air and a new spring and flight, flight—always that.