It was a late fall afternoon, when the shadows are long and the air is crisp. The month was November, the mid point between seasons. I think I would have been better prepared for what happened next if it had been near one of the high points of the cycle. I was traveling down FM 1100 (how portentous). A trip I took every day for 10 months coming home from work, for I was staying with a friend and her family at the time. It was a long journey, an hour, hour and a half depending on the day of the week and the traffic patterns. Most of the journey was spent on highways fighting the angry Texas drivers. But every chance I got I would veer off the busy interstate, go down this country road and enter into another century. Farm Road 1100….. It meandered through old Swedish farmsteads, their churches' spires shooting up into the wide open sky, the only landmarks in an otherwise boring landscape. I only drove a little jog of about 10 miles, but the time spent there was a guilty pleasure I tried to gift myself with frequently.
On this day in question I was traveling down the road going east as usual. I looked up in the sky and saw rising columns….thermals, the type you would normally see buzzards lazily riding. But these helixes were different. Unlike the average ones these were filled with of hundreds upon hundreds of birds. But not just any birds….raptors. Of all shapes and sizes. Night birds as well as day hunters. There was one near the road I was traveling, and as I looked off into the distance, I saw 3 more. Same scenario….filled with raptors. Riding the warm winds up and down, circling round and down. Now, I have never heard of hawks riding thermals, let alone a mixed bag of these types of birds. And who had ever heard of raptors migrating? Or being in the company of their own kind, let alone others of that group? These birds were all solitary hunters….what would cause them to congregate?? They ranged in size all the way from the smallest night jar up to the majestic bald eagles. We do have the eagles here in Texas, they like to winter on the lakes. But this was in the middle of nowhere farmland - why were THEY here?
I stopped my car because I couldn't drive and look at the curling birds at the same time. The pillars marched down the county line road, spaced out about half a mile apart. I sat there watching the birds traveling up and down the warm drafts, completely mesmerized by the sight. And then my eyes came down to ground level because I was going to drive off. I noticed there was a red tailed hawk sitting on the top of the telephone pole next to my car. And as I looked down the road, I noticed that every pole had a guardian, as far as I could see. I started the car moving again and all heads turned as I passed slowly. Can you imagine how that felt? To be the focus of so many keen, riveting eyes, in unison? Oh….
I came up on the county line road, which just happens to be on a ley line (interesting, no?). The road crossed FM 1100, which at this point also ran the lines….hmmmm. I looked off down that road, to the south, and saw a red tailed hawk sitting on every cedar post that ran the fence line. Oh, I could not pass this up. I slowly turned onto the small one-lane road, inching the car along until I was over the hill and away from the sight of any travelers on FM 1100. Those eyes, omg. The birds sat at eye level with me, and those eyes burrowed into my soul. I would pass one bird, his head swiveling as I drove by, then the next bird would concentrate on me and the pattern was repeated. Chills were running up and down my spine - I thought I was going to blow a gasket the thrill was so intense….
I finally brought my car to a standstill, right across from one of those hawks. I turned the car off and sat there with all windows down, me and the bird completly still. I spoke softly to it, saying that I was getting out of the car. No reaction, not even a blink. I opened the door and slowly slithered out, afraid of the reception I would receive in their proximity….but nothing. All the birds up and down the fence line were now concentrating on me, but no fear was shown, no indication of flight. This was so strange…….
As if cued, the birds took their collective focus off of me and gazed to the east, which was on the driver's side of my car where I was standing. So I moved my line of sight and - omg!!
The field was dotted with bald eagles! All facing east, as the fence sitting birds were. The direction of the mind, of air, of eagles and high-flying birds. Hmmm Their shadows stretching out in front of them a good 10 feet or more. None of the birds in the field paid heed to me, their focus completely on……..what? I walked away from the car, towards the fence, trying to see what the eagles were so intent on. Their scrutiny was not directed at the ground as I would have expected. But why should it be? This field had been fallow for weeks, no rodent population explosions in sight. No, their sights were trained on the air in front of them. So why were they here? And what were they doing? The field, a good 20 acres, was filled with these sentries, all spaced evenly about 10 feet apart. All standing at attention, as if in communion, as if entranced. But by what?
I decided I had to find out what was going on. As no one had reacted badly to my presence I moved closer to the fence, actually laid my arms on the wire. The eagle closest to me finally turned his head and snagged my gaze. I cleared my mind and tried a connection……~~~ what?
The answer came to me on the wind, in many voices, hundreds of voices………….
And nothing else.
I waited for many heartbeats, hoping to hear more. But nothing else was forthcoming. My mind snapped back into my body. What?! What does this mean? They were here because of a rip in the fabric of space? They were feeding? Or were they trying to repair…..
So I stood there with the birds, lending my energy as best I could, facing the east as was shown to me. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the thermals shimmering now, the individual wavelets each bird was riding, coasting on, healing. I could not see these before because my vision was not attuned to the boundless circle of infant life-force. I stayed there until almost night fall, the raptors and I in complete alignment.
I finally, reluctantly, got back into my car. But this time when I began to move I was ignored. It was as if I was one of them now, no threat or suspicion to fall on my actions. I went home and told my friends about this rare occurrence. They too had never heard of such an event. They suggested I call the park service or university to find out more. The next day I made several phone calls, and was rebuffed each time. Raptors do not migrate, nor congregate, nor ride thermals. Especially not a varied cross section as I described. Hmmmm
I went the same route home that day, but all evidence of my encounter was gone. Not a single raptor was in sight, which was in itself unusual. Surely there should be at least one red tailed hawk hunting for his dinner that time of day….
A rare occurrence indeed.
Aesop Rock - Impossible Kid Tour 7-18-16
8 months ago