•COMING IN SEPTEMBER, 2015•

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

by Emery Roth

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Geese in Bucolia


The skies were terrific yesterday morning. I wish my camera could have caught it. It wasn't the cloud formations, though there were some magnificent ones both early and late, but certainly not in this picture. No, not the skies themselves but the flocks of things the flew through them.

These are rolling hills with a number of large ponds, so I'm used to being interrupted by gangs of geese. One hears the barking of the pack long before it arrives. They have been so frequent, that sometimes I don't always stop to look at their neat formations. However, this time it wasn't quite barking, at first, perhaps a distant clamor. I turned and waited as it grew into a frantic hubbub, and what emerged from the distance was not the usual squadron, but multiple squadrons, a battalion arrayed for full invasion.

Whatever they were doing wherever they were going was, as always, only in the mind of a goose. There were multiple such waves of invaders moving through the skies to the northeast. A new wave came every 5 or 10 minutes, so there was barely a lull before the next advance, and then they were again all over the sky at once, and it continued so for 40 minutes, and then there was an eerie silence.

The silence was eerie because the wings still flapped and the clusters of birds still passed overhead, but these were not geese. They were black and larger than crows. They might have been turkey vultures; I never trained my long lens on them, and they were not in goose formation, but flew as a clan the way crows do; and in and among these large birds were what might have been swallows, flying tight like a school of fish. At first I thought it might be some flock of little birds defending their nests against larger birds, but this is not nesting time, and these birds were all allies, probably on their way to the great goose convention. The swallows' paths looped and twirled around the vultures. It was quite a show.

It took a long time for all of these to pass, and the first of this mixed formation were long out of sight before the last came through, and then there was nothing. The last of the swallows and vultures were a bit ragged like the end of most parades.

As to the picture above, for me it's all wrong. I wish I knew how to convey the experience properly, but perhaps it is a better subject for dance or film or even architecture, or perhaps I'm just not up to the challenge. I can make interesting images of a squadron of geese flying in formation, but to convey any part of the spectacle, a photo would need to bring sensation as close as that clamor of yelping geese and as close as the intense silence that followed. At the same instant it would need to be as wide as the horizons. I fear it's not a subject for photography.