Sunday, March 16, 2008

Moving constellation

The return of warmer brings many good things, but it's tough to beat grilling. Tenderize some chicken breasts, bag them with garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and parsley...then grill them a few hours later. Good stuff.

I did the marinating, then we put the kids to bed, and then I fired up the grill. It w as dark despite daylight savings (which came early this year).

It was a clear night with a waxing sliver of a crescent moon. So despite the city lights, I could see quite a few stars, at least dozens. As I scanned the southern sky for more stars to add to the count, my eyes sort of shifted focus or depth of field. Some of the stars were moving.

A band of faint but steady stars was pulsating, changing its amorphous shape but moving coherently and getting slowly brighter.

Except that they weren't stars. My eyes shifted focus again -- to a much nearer depth -- and I construed them as they really were, as a flock of birds.

And just then I heard the faint honking. The birds were calling to one another, shifting in and out of formation. It was not a well-ordered group at all, with no "V" shape or letterable formation whatsoever. But the faintness of the honking was an indication of how high up the birds were flying. Even as they passed overhead, they were hard to make out individually. Their bright white shapes -- only slightly bigger than stars, and only slightly noisier -- ghosted past.

Despite the chaos, it was a beautiful sight that brought peace to my heart.

I asked a colleague at work who happens to be an avid birder, and he guessed that it was a migrating bevy of swans.

Swans!

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