A shadow crosses my path. I look up and see the magnificent bird with its wings wider than my outstretched arms slowly spiraling above. There’s another and another. Perhaps eight birds all circling.
One splits off and quickly crosses the vast desert of the parking lot. The others spill out of their whirlpool and follow to the far edge before beginning their concentric dance once more. I never see a wing beat or flap, the feathered sails harnessing their energy from the wind.
Looking around, the eye first sees a forest of trees. Slowly the mind realizes the trees hide clusters of houses and buildings. Not just clusters, but an even larger forest of harvested wood and concrete, a canopy of asphalt. The great American suburban outback stretches for miles in all directions.
Looking again I see the birds filling the sky from horizon to horizon. There are perhaps twenty, maybe more. Though their individual motion is slow, they form a rapidly changing pattern, a fluid that flows across the sky. An individual bird is first in one group, then it’s by itself and then merges into another group, a small part of the kaleidoscope of wings and feathers.
What are these birds looking for? What can feed twenty birds with their two meter wings? There are no buffalo carcasses in a suburban New Hampshire neighborhood. Although there are more moose around, it’s doubtful they would find the remains of one in a town of 90,000.
I look across the bleak blacktop, so dead the searches of death avoid it, and wonder. Is the bond to the land still as tight for these creatures as it was when this was still a real forest? Does the soul of the woods still whisper to its creatures through the new manmade skin?
Some animals adapt to the realities of our civilization. Others fade away and disappear. Vultures, those seekers of death, seem to thrive.
Is that our legacy, then, as bringers of death? Or is it a sign of hope that there are enough animals cycling through life to allow a squadron of vultures to darken the sky?