I went down to the Bosque del Apache Refuge the end of January and I’ve been wanting to write to you about it ever since. The Bosque is a series of manmade ponds, drawing their water from the Rio Grande River…
…with nearby fields of specially planted grasses and grains.
It was created sometime in the ‘30s to encourage migrating waterfowl to winter there. And it worked. It is now the wintering grounds for tens of thousands of ducks, snow geese, and sandhill cranes, not to mention eagles and hawks.
The birds fly in from their feeding fields in the evening just before sunset, to their watery refuge, their safe and cozy roosts on the ponds. I was there and it was a wondrous sight—skeins of birds flying in one after the other.
Then I got up in the morning well before sunrise and found my place among the grasses to wait for the sleeping birds to wake and fly.
I heard them stirring, murmoring, fluffing feathers, the sweet muffled sounds of their dark morning waking.
Then all at once, just as the sun crested the mountains, the geese erupted into flight en masse right above me (followed by the leisurely lift offs of the sandhill cranes).
The sky thundered and roared with their wing beats and their cries. It is indescribable really.
And in those moments, like the very best of lovemaking, time stood still. There was no separation. I was the birds and they were me. I was the earth, the ponds, the sky. It was visceral, joyful, powerful, ancient.
By now they have all left The Bosque, taking the exact same transit patterns they followed south at the beginning of winter, to a cooler clime where they will spend their summer and fall.
I wondered about what calls them home, what guides them to launch off on their migratory flights both north and back south again? And that led me to question what may be in us, pulling us, guiding us. Are we, each and every one of us, called by something deep in our bones, like the migrating birds?
I do believe we each have a path we must walk in this life. But is there something charted deep within us that points the way? What if what we ache for is more universal than individual, like the birds that migrate together, stay together? What if we are programmed, as a species, to simply BE, doing whatever, wherever, the specifics of which are rather immaterial? What if this is one of the cohesive threads that binds us, as human beings and as animals? That we are not meant to be defined or validated by our jobs nor labeled—we are not artists or mathematicians, fat or thin, good or bad, right or wrong. We simply are. We live.
Our culture has become frenzied and jangled. Most of us are bombarded by electronic, pulsing images hundreds of times a day. We are taught to work hard, to make a lot of money, to consume. And in the process we become our jobs, we become the lives we’ve created. We live within a culturally based system that can sometimes be a sort of prison. And the basis of who we are is often lost.
I live a very quiet life up here in the mountains, becoming more and more hermitic every day and yet I still have trouble just being. I worry about the future and hurt for some of the past. But in those moments with the birds I became the best, I believe, of what we as humans can be. If only briefly, I was immersed in what it means to simply, exactly, exist, to feel a viable part of the universe.
I have carried this gift of the birds back home with me and I endeavor to practice it. I am even close to beginning to do meditation for the first time in my life.
So to all of us I wish for peace, the utter, unimaginable experience of purely, simply, deeply being, as I believe we are all meant to do.
Love to you all,