Starlings swoop over the roof of the house, a whirl of wings and motion, coming to the feeders all at once, together, cramming as many bird bodies as possible into the fairly small swinging platform, heads bobbing up and down, emptying it of seed as fast as possible.
Finches arrive in smaller groups, as do the sparrows, lightly perching on the sunflower feeder, taking turns flying to and from the small trees nearby. Other species, Bluejays or Crows, seem to arrive in various small groups or parings. The woodpeckers, Downy or Hairy or Red Bellied, come alone. In summer, Hummingbirds also seem to be solitary as they zoom by.
The Common Eiders have come together, moving in large numbers, the striking black/white males numerous among the brown females, all strongly swimming back and forth in the currents just off shore. They will stay gathered this way until they pair off, then separate, while the young are growing, months of banded mothers minding their ducklings together, males out of sight or watching from afar.
I’ve been a single woman for many years. I often travel alone whether over distance or on daily errands but I see most other women in pairs or groups, with friends or families. I am often aware that my seemingly solitary life is strongly different from others, this awareness both visual and vocal, over a long period of time and circumstance. When times are good, like now, I am privileged to have both single and married women as friends and we share life stories in thoughtful conversations allowing a wider way of understanding both the past and present of our lives.
Long ago, when paired, I took for granted that “paired” was how the world worked best. That was followed by years of seeing myself as an outcast then, at last, coming to feel joyous for the freedom I had with time and space, alone enough to become an observer and thinker about such things. It is never that being alone, being paired, or tied tightly with others, means one way is preferable to all others but rather, the flow of being or watching is what gives meaning, allows understanding, makes life’s progress rich and deep.
I watch with interest the activity at the feeders or in big box stores. Who shows up and with whom? And why? Solitary individuals versus those who prefer to move in groups–I wonder if there is a way to see bird or human activity in any kind of comparative way, furthering understanding of either, or both?