Attempting to have a quiet lunch on our back deck beside the Allegheny River today, my husband and I found it hard to ignore the ruckus dozens of birds were making. Red, yellow and brown birds were flying rapidly back and forth from tree to tree, changing directions often in midair.

The hummingbird came and went at her feeder, but it seemed like all the other birds had now adopted the energetic patterns of her frenetic flights. What do they know that we don’t, I asked out loud? It is September and there is a change in the tenor of the wind if not in the weather itself.

It’s the time of year when the school year commences, and we all begin anew. But this year, though there may have been some purchasing of new sneakers and backpacks, of file folders and notepads, we have lost the orderliness of our back-to-school rituals. A bit like the birds– – teachers, parents, and children in different parts of the country have been moving in different directions; changing their plans, revising their changes, some opening, then closing, others moving their start dates last minute. The unpredictability we’ve lived with since March still prevails.  

Looking back at this spring and summer like no other, we shouldn’t be surprised at the chaotic confusion we are attempting to navigate going into this fall. I’m proud of us that we’ve made it through this far–sheltering in place, social distancing, sacrificing our social and business lives, and too often, the actual lives of loved ones who have become victims to this pandemic.

It’s good to notice and count all we’ve been through. For the most part, family members are still speaking to one another–unless this time out of usual time was the final proof they needed to change the way they speak to one another, or to finally make a decision to let go and go in different directions.

It’s good to laud what we have achieved individually, though we must admit we get lots of help from friends and the internet. I’m expert on Zoom now. How about you? Does your garden look as lovely as mine? Let’s celebrate that we’ve kept most everything alive through some relatively long patches of dry summer drought. Not sure what the birds were warning us of this afternoon, but we haven’t arrived yet on this journey to our new, post-Covid life.

Birds have an amazing advantage in how they live and travel together. Flocking reduces the chance that a predator will be able to pick one bird off. The birds take turns leading and the leader’s wings create uplift for the birds behind. When flying in their formations each bird (except the leader) is flying in the up-wash from the wing of the bird in front. This enables the flock to use less energy and reduce fatigue.

Don’t know about you, but I could use some of that uplift and up-wash about now. Especially since the terrain has become more troubled. Still in the midst of a pandemic, we’re attempting to deal with a racial injustice reckoning long overdue, a divisive political campaign with its vitriolic threats and scare tactics, and yes, climate change weather fueling fires in the West, tornado damage in the Midwest, and hurricanes in the South and Southwest. 

Whew! Let’s take a deep breath on all that as we prepare for a major US election in nine weeks. I saw a headline this morning that the Russians are trying to influence the upcoming US election. Last week there was a notice that China was trying to influence it as well. Now if we could just figure out how the birds in our flock could influence the election, we could bring about a country that we will want to live in when this election is over.  I know how we used to do it and I was prepared to do all of that again this year – walk the neighborhoods, talk to neighbors and fellow citizens, hand out flyers, help get people to the polls, and cast my own vote in a manner that insures it would be counted.

This year – I’m participating in a phone bank which can seem quite small and futile at times. So fellow flock members, I welcome your suggestions for any collaborative formation we can engage in that will save our energies as we work to make our voices count and help our country heal from all its been through these past number of years.