On a recent spring-like day, I went into the back yard and was stunned by a change in our hackberry tree. It was like a bouquet of birds in the wind. They lit on branches singly and in clusters and only momentarily. They flitted and soared and whirled, fluttered, hopped here and there and away. I believed it was a vision or hallucination. I began crying, not from fear, but from the startle and beauty of it—and joy. It seemed real. I wanted to preserve it as long as possible, and without my phone camera had only my memory. I tried to memorize the kinds of birds, but I’m not a birder and recognized by type only a few. Robins galore, with different shades of breast color, from pale pink to dark red; robin-like birds with white patches; doves (only two) , starlings, finch, brown sparrows, tiny birds with at least three colors—red, green, and yellow—and very tiny birds with bright yellow bellies and dark green or brown tops. All moving in and out and up and around and down. Impossible to count. I finally inched back to the door, sped into the house, grabbed my phone, and, at the door again, inched out. All but a few had gone. I should have stood still until I couldn’t bear it. I should have kept the sight as long as possible instead of wanting a photo. Now, writing about the event, I know my prose can’t capture it. Likely a photo couldn’t either. Maybe not even a video. The sound was wind-swept bird song, bird talk, tree rustle and sway, and a vast silence everywhere else.
Leafless, the tree’s twigs held thousands of hackberries. They were a delight for the birds and the birds were more than that for me. I was exceedingly happy those few moments, and I feel a bit of that happiness every time I think of them.