When I moved to Georgia, I landed inside a heavily-manicured neighborhood. Pretty, but loud. I had traded the winter snowblower soundtrack of the Midwest for the squalling of…well, all sorts of machinery.
Almost everyone on my block whipped out huge leaf blowers and accompanying ear protection, and two neighbors also used ladders to shimmy around their roofs with those things in tow. I think the screaming of gas-powered leaf blowers may mimic the alarm calls of primates; my shoulders tightened whenever one operated nearby.
And then there were the pressure washers. The first time I heard the man across the street firing up his pressure washer for what would be a two-hour weekly ritual of sidewalk and driveway scouring, I thought a helicopter was landing on my lawn.
But sometimes I walked into my yard surrounded by the peaceful sounds only nature gives us. I listened to birdcalls as I pulled my rake through dry leaves. I invited a long, cleansing breath deep into my lungs and exhaled slowly. That’s how I savored such moments.
On one of those quieter days, I looked up. A large unfamiliar bird circled close enough for me to notice the sunlight filtering through the outermost feathers of his massive wingspan, and we studied each other for several minutes this way, in the silence. Too dark for a hawk, the shape of his head didn’t seem right for a vulture. I was wrong. I’ve learned more about the black vulture since then, and I’ve spotted many in the sky and once clustered in a field next to the interstate. Standing around their next meal, the birds looked a bit like a group of people in feathered capes, their heads bowed in grace or benediction.
Vultures inspire me because they don’t “flap.” To use their wings to best advantage, they capture the updrafts available around them, coasting most of the time, and when I see a vulture, I think about the power found in cooperation with unseen currents. As someone with a tendency to “push the river,” I love life’s gentle reminders that there’s a time to paddle, and a time to relax into the water. A time to plow forward, and a time to wait.