Monday, November 29, 2021

flocking together

Every cliché will come to life.

If you just wait long enough.

I have led horses to water, but I have never tried to persuade them to drink. And perhaps it is because I never get to bed early that I have ended up low on the healthy, wealthy, and wise toteboard. Even though I do rise early, I have yet to catch that proverbial worm.

One of the other bird 
clichés has turned out to be untrue. At least, for a moment.

This morning I was reading beside the pool. If you have stopped by these pages in the past, you already know there is a large communication tower near my house that is home to a flock of black vultures. They wait for the sun to rise just long enough to start warming them, and then they drop off of the tower and swoop off on their daily commute to look for that 
cliché worm -- or road kill -- or to kill a calf.

Unlike their turkey vulture cousins, black vultures will kill the young of large animals. I see them occasionally eyeing the local cats and dogs.

The larger part of the flock waits for the sun to start creating thermals before they take off as a group. They will then use the uplift of the radiated heat to soar in lazy circles higher and higher with only minimal wing movement until they climb so high, their details cannot be seen. They are the envy of all humans who have the imagination to fly.

This morning, the gliding club's circular climbs almost mesmerized me. It was like one of those moments in a grade B movie from the 1940s where the hypnotist with nothing good on his mind sits the 
ingénue in front of one of those hypnotic swirls while a theremin plays in the background reminding us life is not always a bed of roses. Another cliché. And a rather thorny one to my mind.

And then something pushed me out of my avian trance. The attraction of the vulture Charybdis was broken when a flight of six wood storks flew across the sky on the oblique passing just under the vultures. With their graceful lankiness they looked like Tolkien elves ignoring the blocky dwarf vultures.  I went back to my reading. When I glanced up I saw one of the strangest sights I have seen in the bird world.

I am an amateur birder. My birding has taught me that the old adage of birds flocking together is true. That is, until it isn't. And this morning, the exception proved to be far more interesting than the rule.

The vultures had risen high enough that I could only make out their shapes. But amongst them was an odd shape. Another bird soaring with them. Lanky and elvin. While five of his comrades had flown on, one of the wood storks had joined the vultures in their thermal amusement. I watched this odd match until the whole group moved out of view of the patio.

Why would that happen? Why would one bird break off from his own group to spend time with another species of bird? One quite unrelated to him. The episode had the feel of a remake of Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

Maybe it was the wrong question. The true question is why that does not happen more often.

And here is the moral of this morning tale. You did, of course, know that was where this was all leading.

Over the years, I have sat in groups of people who indulged in what seems to be a human universal pursuit -- comparing one group with another. You know the drill. Someone will mention how certain work colleagues always sit together. And another person will inevitably jump the logic track with: "Well, you know them. They always stick together and don't mingle with the rest of us."

The "them" in that sentence is always some group that the speaker did not particularly like. Gypsies. Jews. Mexicans. Italians. Asians. Californians. Well, maybe not the latter. The irony is that the complainers are usually all of the same race, age group, and education -- sitting as a group away from the other groups. 

Unfortunately, the same thing happens here in Mexico. Too many Canadians bring their own civil war to our beaches. The English-speakers complain the French-speakers are 
cliquish. The French-speakers say the same about the English-speakers. And a similar divide between Americans and Canadians has raised its ugly head.

The irony is that most of my Mexican friends think the same about the northerners who visit or live here. That we hang out in groups and seldom form anything other than transactional relationships with Mexicans. A northern woman once told me that her maid was her best friend. When I asked if she invited her cleaning lady to her parties, she smiled broadly and responded: "Oh, yes. Who else would serve the food and drinks?"

Let's be real here. People tend to gravitate toward people with similar backgrounds and interests. I certainly do. But, now and then, it helps to lift my soul to create relationships that are beyond my comfort level. Like having a conversation about popular music.

If only to get past hanging out only with the rest of the wood storks and spend a bit of the day soaring with the vultures.  

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