Birds, Black and White

When you drive down our dirt road hill, the woods give way suddenly to open farm fields along the river valley bottom where, before the rivers were polluted, must have made for amazing swimming. We never swim in the river, but the immense fields and the arching sky are beautiful, and all my many journeys along the brambly edge have yielded treasures – wildflowers I’d never seen or small running streams from the steep hillsides.

This afternoon, crows pecked  at the corn stubble. Something like white cloths fluttered in the light snow, and I realized those graceful swoops of white were seagulls. I’d never seen seagulls there.

If you’d been looking for an omen – and I had, indeed – that mixture of the black birds, with their beaks working where the open ground lay barren and brown, coupled with the downy white of seagulls who tilted upward in the breeze and drifting snow would have sufficed. It was just me and the birds, and the birds would have gone on quite happily without me, serene in a mysterious drama all their own.

…. you can
drip with despair all afternoon and still,
on a green branch, its wings just lightly touched

by the passing foil of the water, the thrush,
puffing out its spotted breast, will sing
of the perfect, stone-hard beauty of everything.

– Mary Oliver

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Hardwick, Vermont, snowing

 

By Brett Ann Stanciu

Brett Ann Stanciu lives with her two daughters in Hardwick, Vermont. Her creative nonfiction book, Unstitched: My Journey to Understand Opioid Addiction and How People and Communities Can Heal, will be published by Steerforth Press in September 2021. Her novel about rural life in Vermont, Hidden View, was published in 2015.

2 comments

    1. I’d prefer to lie and say I was mistaken, but I’m afraid this may be not that unusual. In Vermont, the combination of our slower-flowing rivers coupled with a great deal of agricultural run-off, some industry, and lots of treated waste water have wrecked havoc on water cleanliness. Lake Champlain really needs the state to step up and address what should be a beautiful body of water. In NH, the rivers run fast from the White Mountains and are often sparklingly pristine.

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