Many hours into a 140 mile ride, we pass hundreds of acres of open land, a winter farm field, laid bare until Spring. It is the last weekend of February. The wind blows strong, cold and constant. We have many miles and hours yet to go.
Len, my riding partner for the day, tells me a story of another time, another ride, on the same course at the same field.
It took place just after the harvest. Birds covered the field until the land was black with birds. Len estimated them to number in the millions. I tried to picture the sight: millions of birds covering a harvested field in New Jersey.
Today, the wind brings a cover of clouds; thick grey winter clouds. We travel on a quiet road past another farm. Thousands of grey white seabirds, maybe seagulls maybe terns, flock in the field. We are far from the ocean. We left it many hours and miles behind.
At some unknown cue, the birds take flight, doing that miraculous thing where thousands, tens of thousands of birds, separated by hundreds of yards, all take flight at once. They fly in formation. My kids call the phenomenon "an air show."
They rise as one in flight and in full voice. The cries echo despite the wind. Bird calls blending and careening as they rise toward the thick grey clouds until the calls are lost in the hard wind and the birds slowly fade into the grey of the clouds - becoming the wind - becoming the cloud- insistent and unrelenting.
I live most of my life as a hot house flower, moving from climate controlled evironment to climate controlled environment. But the wild thing in me rebels at the comfort, rejects the predictability.
It takes flight
in full voice
from a field laid bare
to a cloud filled sky
on a cold windy day