A black iron hook hangs like a long letter s, and swings empty in the morning wind. It used to support my red hummingbird feeder. Once the bees realized the birds were gone, they greedily sucked down the remaining nectar. Swatting at bees on my own porch is not my idea of a pleasurable walk out the back door so I removed the feeder and its buzzing crew to the garden where I know many bees live.
When the nectar is gone, I’ll reclaim the feeder, wash it and wait for hummingbirds to return next spring.
This is a transition of seasons, and migration has begun. Three days ago the pine trees twittered like a bird sanctuary. Pine siskins, cedar waxwings, sparrows. All on the move. By the time I returned with my camera, it was silent. The Hub watched a goshawk nail a migrating bird. Those wily predators know to watch the passageways we humans don’t even notice above our roads and rails and rivers.
How unlike the birds and animals are we? Migration is their season, not ours. We put away the lawn chairs, harvest the garden, split the wood and hunker down for winter. That’s if you live in the country of the northern hemisphere. Our city counterparts prepare with state fairs and back to school sales on notebooks and shoes. The southern hemisphere is awakening to pupae and blooms and concerns for dry weather conditions.
Our fires in northern Idaho are taking a pounding from the rain. Australia is anticipating its own fire season. I wonder if the Aussie and Yankee crew bosses will exchange phone numbers before the Australians go home.
There is a human resiliency to the places we’ve selected to settle down and homestead. The survivors of hardships are the ones that plow the earth and seek the water. Subsistence farming is not necessary in our modern world of grocery stores and gourmet food found on Amazon. Yet still I dig, not as deep as those who came before me, but I still grow food out of dirt and water.
The Hub and I watched a movie that showed what our homesteading farmers were made of. Grit and simple values. If you’ve not yet seen, “The Water Diviner,” do. It’s not an easy movie; it follows the lives of characters after the Battle of Gallipoli, yet it beautifully unfolds the complex relationships between Australia, Great Britain and Turkey. It’s easy to make such a story one of war or blame, but “The Water Diviner” is about seeking what is lost, and what we share across cultures.
The opening scene is that of a hardy farmer with a talent to divine water in the Australian Outback. He finds the spot and digs. And digs. And digs. At last, he strikes water that begins to fill up his well. The trouble is, he doesn’t know where his three sons are buried. Many who enlisted to fight in the Great War were killed in action at Gallipoli and ended up in unmarked graves.
“Water Diviner” is also a story about a Turkish widow who believes her husband could still be alive. She’s a modern woman, running a hotel and raising her young son with pressure from her brother-in-law to be one of his many wives. The movie follows the Australian farmer, but we see multiple perspectives from all sides impacted by war and displacement.
Maybe we aren’t so different from the birds after all. For thousands of years we have migrated. The Australian farmer was not a native of that continent; the Ottoman Empire that once conquered was in turn conquered and divided; Americans came from around the world and pushed all the way to the frontier; and today, nations grapple with the issue of migrants.
War, famine, desire to improve the life of one’s family – the same reasons birds move. Hawks pressure little birds out of areas. Wetlands go dry and birds seek new homes. Osprey show up every year in Sandpoint because of the same reason the Californians do – it’s beautiful here in summer and the houses are big and overlook vast waterways.
Have we ever truly stopped moving? How do we decide that movement is shut down just because we like where we have settled and too bad if other people have not been so lucky? What about traditional migrations, such as Mexican workers to pick California fruit before returning to Mexico? Why can’t they stay in land the US grabbed (pardon my political incorrectness, I meant to say “compromised”) from Californios in 1850?
Too complicated of questions to answer easily, but ones I ponder as I watch the cycle of migration unfold in nature and read about the plights of human migrants barred or banned from moving.
My mind shifts to what cross-cultural interaction brings us. I’m fascinated by water divining and have been told by a real diviner that I have the ability. I still have the willow witching stick he cut for me from the fork of a red willow. I know not where this tradition began but I see it has spanned time and the globe. How many other foods, books and traditions do I posses because of my own ancestors migrations and that of those I live among?
We think we are so secure in our boundaries. Like birds, we still seek wisdom in moving to a better place, and like bees we take advantage of shelter or a food source another group left behind.
September 2, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that shows the interaction of a migrant culture on the place of migration. It can be the reverse, too such as a migrant picking up on local customs. The idea is to explore exchanges.
Respond by September 8, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!
Finding a Job in 1884 by Charli Mills
Brackish water plagued the settlement.
The stranger with a red beard pushed aside his cup of brown water. He ate boiled potatoes in silence among murmurs of Italian in the dining tent.
The foreman approached. “No jobs here. Move out after your meal.”
The stranger nodded; same greeting from camp to camp. Cheap labor in Washington Territory came from new migrants and no boss wanted a Metis from across the border.
Leaving, he paused, pulled out a forked willow and walked until the point plunged. “Dig here.”
The foreman smiled. “Wait. If there’s fresh water, you’ve got a job.”