The Only Certainty of Edges
Sitting and reading late last week, I heard a rustling in the woods by the house, more than once, and finally got up to make sure no one was stalking around in my yard. As soon as I emerged onto the porch, I heard an incredible scattering in the dry, leafy treetops. I had to squint to see through the branches to make sure it was true: the vultures have returned. Today, they are putting on the strangest show, distantly flying in a roving, circular formation, a cyclone made of birds. There must be forty of them going at it, with such theatrics. Birds on the outside turn inward, bringing birds at the core outward. It’s an incredible auger of flight, drilling sideways across the sky. My only conclusion is that it’s a game. Anything else, any higher meaning for such behavior would seem ridiculous. But, then.
I’ve spent today under the wings of music, and NPR, and books that give me ideas, make me ask questions. Yesterday was exhausting, and my hands are torn apart from three days of event prep culminating in dinner service for fifty, including a rattling crowd of about nine children, asking for pie, asking for pie, and asking for pie. I should probably get out of my house, see some people, drink a beverage or two, and stock up for the cold weather, but I’m thinking too hard to be interrupted by living.
It has been a high-minded Sunday, mostly. My work rakes its fingers through my brain over and over, as I forever endeavor to discover new connections between what matters and what is, so I can call it all worthwhile. I’m teaching a class late this week on energy use in food production, particularly animal agriculture. I’ve had the energy pyramid in my head all weekend, wondering whether creatures at different levels “owe” more to the energy base than others, and even more delicately, whether humans owe more or less based on their diets. It’s exhilarating thought; I put the vultures into their slot in the cycle, and wonder what carrion has them so excited today. I imagine what lies in the woods nearby, waiting to dissolve, and I find myself drawing diagrams for the class, about energy, and microenvironments. The study of edges, mostly: the flesh of dry aging meat, the zone between muscle and bone, the surface of the soil, coastlines, firebreaks, stream banks. Rich edges, all, stations for exchange. Their complexity has defied us since the beginning of human existence. Some of them we understand to be special, and we try to hold on. We try to grasp their workings so we can create a perfect experience for ourselves, as if we could assemble our lives with only the beginnings and endings of things, and have nothing to do with the apparent mediocrity of middle living. We want our worlds to be shiny, sharp. Fantastic. And further, we believe there can still be security there. But the only certainty of edges is extraordinary change, mind-blowing dynamism. And actually, the edges are not separate from the cores. They are the service centers for the middle matters, and all is connected, all necessary, all real.
Having been on an edge for such a time now, such a transition (sharper than it is shiny), I’m settling into the core now. I’m rather thankful, although I feel barely below the surface. A sudden freeze or thaw could throw me back into the fray. I think I probably live less carefully than I should.
But as the vultures twist past my window, above the tree line once more looking for fun, I can’t stop amusing myself with the thought that their turbulent dance is just like human relationships, human endeavors, both absurd and artful. Relevant and riveting at one moment and commonplace or un-catchy the next. I’m thankful for my friends, and my work, my life that is challenging me, keeping me alert, showing me new angles on concepts and practice that I have always loved. As I settle into the inner layers of it all, I am being given new edges to inspect, ends to peel back, and digging deeper. As if flying with a turning wind, I’m just loving what I love. I don’t much care the way it looks. It turns out, the deeper you go, the more it renews.