I heard a Swainson’s Thrush today, its song trailing through the toasted leaf ether of fall— a call to adventure.
Like the whistle of a distance train, it’s just passing through, on its way to Argentina from Alaska, having brought forth another wave of wings. On task, it never lingers long here in western Washington,and one can judge the arrival of the coming winter by the migration of this little bird. Early September, winter will set by Thanksgiving. October, and the snows will fall beyond Christmas Day.
A bird is a remarkable creature. It’s a mystery how it navigates thousands of miles, a comet of color, from continent to continent. The one you see this year, announcing the season, may very well be the same one you saw this time last year, and the same you’ll see the next. A miracle.
Is it the angle of the sun, learned landmarks, earth’s magnetic field? A celestial chart, one for spring and one for summer, memorized like an alphabet?
Their voice is that of the ancient and unchanging. Yet, the song is a song of evolution. A confirmation that as things change all around us (especially in the mirror), the innate is a fixed thing, existing mysteriously outside ourselves. Birds are like the soul, traveling the continents of life after life, navigating from those simple truths gathered along the way, bringing continuity to a fluid existence.
We are all birds of the air.