They were storks! When they circled lower, the long beaks and the legs that trailed in the slipstream showed red as sealing wax. An old shepherd was leaning on the ramp close by and gazing up at them too. When some of the great birds floated lower, the draught of their feathers brushed our upturned faces, and he said something in Magyar — “Net, gobyuk!” and smiled.
Around me, the air has been stirred with wild things, but not storks. During winters in central Texas I walked to the pond on my step-father’s farm and sat on the lee side of the water, standing still about a natural juniper blind, not moving, and ducks would fly so fast you heard them before you saw them, and they stirred the air about my face and landed swiftly upon pond water, sending ripples to the ice-crusted edge. The aire be stirred with wild things. In all the years around the pond, I took but one duck out of the sky, regretting it to this day because there was roast beef and bacon back at home beneath the thin, protective dish towel mother used to cover the food she prepared.
Three fall seasons ago I sat on the back porch, wearing an old, broad-brimmed felt hat as I looked out in the pasture at the horses. Not moving much in the chair, a familiar wren — I had seen it countless times — flew down from the support post and landed upon my hat. The wren stayed there for thirty seconds, maybe a minute, darting about the top of the hat, checking out the intricate perforations of the hat band for food, its tiny feet moving staccato-like about like a ballerina. I felt its motion, the draught of wings I felt upon my face. The aire be stirred with wild things.
Barn swallows fly through the porch today and stir the air. They hover, literally hover in the air, fanning the porch like tiny, childish whirl-a-gigs, seeking a perch or possible nook for a new nest. There are six swallows and they perform their aerobatics twice a day, morning and evening. Coming close, within three feet, they chirp at me as an intruder in their world. The aire, I tell you, is stirred with wild things. And, ’tis good wild things.
See also The New York Times obituary of Sir Patrick: NYT obituary of Patrick Leigh Fermor.
Somewhere in my reading, I remember an Englishman that was on an African safari and in the evening ventured beyond the compound’s fire pit and was attacked by a lion. In the attack, the lion grabbed him about the shoulder from behind and started dragging him away into the bush. The Englishman — how I wish I could find this story again — thought he was done with and remembered the smell of the lion and that the lion purred as he took him away. Interesting the purr. The man reached for his bush knife and stabbed the lion who released him and ran off into the dark. Not all wild things that stir the air are so gentle.