Matthew Vernon: A Murmuration in Marin

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Matthew Vernon didn’t know what a murmuration is, after all, not many people do. But he’s glad he went to see one.

Before I get into this, I need to explain one thing: I am not an outdoors person. I am the sort of person who usually opts for spending their day in the movies rather than being in the great outdoors. So when my partner asked if I wanted to see the murmurations in Marin, I was reluctant. It looked cold outside and there was a new "Wonder Woman" movie to see, after all. Yet, with a little coaxing, we dutifully ended up trudging up a hill in Marin, staring into the sky, waiting for whatever a murmuration was to happen.

Other than at the supermarket, this was the largest number of people I had seen together since the pandemic began. However, we all knew the drill. We all wore masks and stood well away from each other while waiting for something to happen. We heard it before we saw anything; a squeal of delight from a group of children who spotted the starlings bursting above the tree line and into the misty air. As more and more birds joined that first flock, forming intricate shapes in the air flying in concert in ways I could not understand, we on the ground became more and more enthralled. A couple in front of me hugged, photographers lugging around serious lenses began spotting for each other, and all of us exclaimed as one at the spectacle.

I would like to say that it felt like normal pre-pandemic times, but it didn’t. This moment of community felt intentional and intimate in ways that I couldn’t have imagined before the lockdown. I, for one, could not have imagined myself doing this before having to rethink how I connected with the world around me.

We have lost so much during this year-long pandemic; but as strange as it is to say, I think I have found something I want to hold on to.

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With a Perspective, I’m Matthew Vernon.

Matthew Vernon is an associate professor of English at UC Davis.