The aire be stirred with wild things

Barn swallow in flight, north Erath County, Texas (2010).

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.

Patrick Leigh Fermor in Hungary, 1934, in A Time of Gifts, p. 309.

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.


Filed under Birds

10 responses to “The aire be stirred with wild things

  1. What a fine read. Your writing of late has a very nice tone, a gentleness about the world. We sure can use that. Thank you.

    Have you seen the movie “The Ghost and the Darkness?” Your story of the Englishman reminded me of it.

    • Teresa: No, I’ve not seen that movie. But, I’ve heard of it. I read your work on Fogerty and your boyfriend and, “Love conquers all.” That’s pretty deep and emotional, Teresa. I also saw your photo of Buddy.

  2. This was a great read Jack. Your story reminds me of the broad hat and wren reminds me of a guy around here who, every year in deer season, would place corn nuggets in the weave of his cotton hat. The chickadees would flutter around and eventually land on his hat and peck at the corn. I don’t think he was really much of a hunter, but he sure must’ve looked like a bush dressed in camo with a green hat and birds on his head.

    • Bill: That’s really good. Chickadees — how could anyone not like those perky, darting, fascinating things? We have species of them down here and one year I thought using the chickadee as a label icon on wine bottles. That guy with the corn in his hat — what an act. You New Englanders have as many “characters” as we do down here in Texas. The cold affects your guys, the great bronze blaze in the sky affects us.

  3. I also love the stirring of the wild things. They tell me that I’m in tune with the world.

  4. That’s great! I love to sit out there in nature looking at what is happening around me, and I often want the wild buzzard to stir the air and come a little closer to me. What’s coming closer are the swallows, those eminent flyers, they stir the air, but never touches me. They are wild things stirring the air,,,,,,,,,but coming closer is the crow, tramping along fat and dark, he can recognize a face, but he’s not a wild thing, and he’s not stirring the air. Well, maybe in a clumpsy way! But not elegant like the wild things you have told us about. Thank you Jack !
    Grethe ´).

    • I thought you would be one of those that sits out in nature and has birds flying near them. The crow. I have some of those about, but the drought has pushed them north? south? Not many birds here this week. Cheers to you, Grethe.

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