A couple of things, to round out what has been a week of birds. First, an artist, fellow-Brit and Los Angeles-based friend posted a link in the comments to the site of his latest series of paintings. Birds, of course. I found them delightful in their purposeful, playful reduction of form and their colorful brilliance. In their linear simplicity, too, the pictures perfectly capture that avian sense of superiority and that quizzical innocence of birds when confronted with their flightless human fellow-travelers. I hope you'll check them out and enjoy them as much as I did.
Next--not sure how all these bird-events piled up in a single week; it certainly wasn't by conscious intention--we watched a DVD of French film, "Winged Migration," which was an Academy Award Nominee back in 2002. I had missed it earlier, having mistaken it perhaps for that other film about migration, where the film-maker accompanies a flock of geese in a super-light aircraft (I've forgotten the title. Remind me, someone...) The French title is "Le Peuple migrateur"--the migration people, as in a people, or a nation, and the anthropomorphism suggested by the title bleeds through at times into the narrative of the film. The various feathered species do take on "character"--sometimes gawky, sometimes comic, sometimes elegant and graceful--and entertain us with their antics. The major theme, however, is the story of the incredible work that goes into their survival, the long journeys they must take each year to feeding grounds, depending on the seasons.
It's a miraculous film in many ways--not least in the extraordinary footage of birds in flight, taken from the air alongside or above them, in front or below. It captures the phenomenon of flight itself, its grace and apparent ease belied by the sheer, continuous effort that goes into it. The choreography of a full flock of birds in flight is awe-inspiring, genuinely moving, as is the persistence and instinctive courage it requires. For the pure beauty of natural environment and the wonder of nature's infinite variety of species, the film is unsurpassed.
Let's call it a tribute, though, rather than a study. There is no attempt to provide scientific explanations or information about the birds. It's a hymn to their beauty and their peculiar intelligence, a symphonic creation in image, movement and color. We go along willing for the ride and learn, perhaps, more about ourselves than about our feathered friends. We learn about the unique role of beauty in our lives, the need to discover ways of peaceful co-existence with other species. Man's role in the film is minimal--and inevitably destructive: as a flock of elegant geese flies over an expanse of water, we heard a sudden volley of shots and, heart-breakingly, birds crumple and fall; in urban areas along their migration route, birds suffocate in ugly, man-made pollution--caught in the slime of grease and mud; out on the prairies, they are trapped beneath the churning blades of harvesters.
It's inarguable now that we destroy our environment and threaten other living species at our own risk. In so many ways, the birds and animals and insects who share our planet with us are much wiser than we. Some hardy species, surely, will find ways to survive us, should we fail to live up to the challenge set by our own history and intelligence. Let's hope that some of them are birds. May all living beings finds peace and happiness in their lives.
(As a footnote, I feel obliged to pass on this Sarah Palin interview clip that was relayed to me via Daily Kos, as further--and deeply disturbing--evidence that this woman should not be allowed within a stone's thrown of the presidency. Please check it out, and forward it as widely as possible.)