The principal thing in the world is to keep the soul aloft. ~ Gustave Flaubert
A year ago I moved back to the city after living for nearly three years on a tiny remote island in British Columbia. I remember the palpable exhaustion I felt in every cell of my body after the 24+ hours of packing three households into one U-Haul van, a winter storm of insane proportions, no sleep, ferry rides and cats yowling for the entire eight hours of the drive. Arriving at my friend’s home that evening, I slid down from the driver’s seat and gazed up at the big, golden orb hanging low in the sky. I smiled at its pure brilliance, and marveled aloud to my friends about how bright the moon was that night. Both of them doubled-over laughing. You see it wasn’t the moon. It was a streetlight.
There is a video making the viral rounds on the internet. Check it out:
The first time I saw this film my mouth dropped and I was gobsmacked. The sensation I felt as I watched the diving, swirling dance playing out before me was incomparable. Wonder was my companion as I watched this phenomenon, not knowing at the time what was in the sky, if it was some sort of special effects wizardry or the pure presence of the unknowable. As I watched I tried not to name what I was seeing, to be in a state of sati, as my Buddhist teachings guide me, the space of knowing but not naming what I was experiencing. To witness it as a child might see something for the first time, with a boundless landscape of innocence and joy.
The title of the film is a big, bad spoiler alert. The magic in the sky is a flocking together, or murmuration, of starlings. Interesting that the other definition of murmuration is “a low continuous indistinct sound often accompanied by movement of the lips without the production of articulate speech.” A murmur, a whisper, an expression, perhaps, of awe and an ample amount of gobsmackness.
There are so many phenomenal moments in life, moments that call to our souls to lift them higher without explanation or the mind’s reason. Every time I hear Prelude to Bach’s Cello Suite #1 in G, it touches a cord deep inside of me that speaks to goodness and realms beyond my earthly state. I don’t need to know how the strings are touched or the placement of the bow, the musician’s name or the maker of the instrument. Those are all wanderings of the mind that can take me away for the pure essence of embracing this piece of music and inviting it into my cells. My wonder at seeing the orange globe in the sky dissolved when I discovered it was a street light, not just because it was a far less romantic image to admire, but by labeling it the experience itself was diminished. Think of Dorothy’s impression of the Wizard before seeing the man behind the curtain and you can feel the wind of astonishment being knocked out of you.
In meditation we are asked to bring our awareness to each breath, to experience the wonder of air moving in and out of our bodies. If we pay attention to each moment of the day, a murmuration of wonderings can gather before us. The wet rain touching your eyelashes, the man reaching out a hand as you pass him on the street, the smiling unheard whisper of a dying woman.
If you’ve seen the film, “American Beauty”, you may remember the scene of a dancing plastic bag. Watch it sometime and let go of the idea of a plastic bag. Bring your child’s mind to the seat and watch the film clip from a place of innocent observation. What do you see? What do you feel? How many moments each day does wonder like that tap you on the shoulder?
Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world. It’s in the waltz of birds and a forgotten piece of plastic and a golden orb floating in the sky.
Feature Image – Light through Trees – Tess Wixted – All Rights Reserved
Murmuration Video and Screen Capture For Thumbnail by Sophie Windsor Clive
Murmuration Reference Sesquiotica: Words, Words, Words
Film clips from “The Wizard of Oz” and “American Beauty”