Friday, October 24, 2008

Bird Week: Last Day

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.)


carly said...

oWinged Migration is an example of exalted film-making, a conceptual work of art as well as a politically incisive statement. Isn't it interesting how film which focuses on something other than man has a brilliance beyond film which focuses on man. I think it is because such films reveal the depth and brilliance, the wonder, that is not found in man. Man has tarnished himself so, that he is degenerate nature and ugly and disjointed, just as Francis Bacon has painted him. I can't think of one film which explores the brilliance and wonder of man in the sense of Migration. Man films are always about struggle, suffering, fate, heroism, plunder, or reversed fortune, as if he is completely unable to fit into the entirety of wonder as adaptively as birds do.

"May all living beings find peace and happiness in their lives."

There is no need to wish this so. Man is the only thing on this planet which suffers the fate of discord and unhappiness. He is worse than a virus, because he is aware that his ego and wrongdoing serve no purpose whatsoever. Soon, he will go off the planet to destroy, litter, and degrade more of the cosmos. Everything else is already in harmony, striding eternally in complete integration within the whole.

I have profound faith in nature and my own nature within it. I inquire as to how I may be like nature is.

TaraDharma said...

well, gosh, here's another bird story:

pretty cool.

I've watched Winged Migration a couple of times -- in the theater on the big screen is mind-blowing!

Oh, that Sarah Palin....