BOB GRAY: Vultures transformed

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By Wednesday, Nov 8 Life In the Berkshires

It might have been an island, I figure, if you’d want to dignify it as such. Or it might have been a promontory on a day the river was down.

To me, it was a barren pile of stones and gravel 10 feet or so from the riverbank and blotched with flotsam washed up during the higher water earlier in the spring.

A gray, chill, early April day forbade the pile any redemption: no sun warming the sullen stones or reflecting the sparkles in a slice of schist.

Beyond lacking allure, the gray-on-gray place appeared sinister as well, populated on this day by a committee of turkey vultures. Without many thermals to ride, my guess is they gathered here eating either garbage, dead fish, or whatever else might wash up on the shore. On some days, they may not take off at all.

Perched, most of the birds half spread their wings. In this morning’s light, they sat silent, looking brittle as if they might clatter.

*     *     *

May requires an about-face in both one’s aspect and attitude of vultures.

On a sunny morning walk, I pass a vulture roost. Against late spring’s newer green, the vultures, their wings half-spread, sit black as judges’ robes, no longer sinister. Perhaps patient and purposeful, they rest in quiet society waiting for the air to warm and for thermals to rise.

By midafternoon, in the usual order of things, vultures are readily apparent to the quickest glance skyward.

Soaring circular and clockwise, they bank slowly, effortlessly, left and right. The paler feathers on their wings’ undersides glint silver in full sunlight.

Their transformation complete, they soar a mile high, seemingly eaters of air, in a realm which I, earthbound, will never know.

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