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Connected. In close proximity. Community

Updated: Oct 25, 2018

I've had the question be asked, so, why Starlings? They are birds, right?


Starlings are a type of bird that I fell in love with a few years ago. And I'm not sure where my affinity to birds, in general, came from, but I do know that I have always had a fondness for them. We had budgies when I was a baby (my parents gave them away because they were too messy, which makes perfect sense knowing my mom) and we always rescued injured birds. When I first met my husband, I fell in love with a photo (yes yes, and my husband himself) that he took while in Rome in 2004 of an older gentlemen, pigeons perched on top of his arms, and the biggest smile on his face. That photo is now up in our house. I’ve always wanted a swallow tattooed on me a la "Portlandia" influence: “put a bird on it?”, anyone? No? Well, then there was the first time I went to Paris with my roommate: I was 25 and giddy with excitement, running with pigeons all around me…or maybe they were running from me? In any case, it was pure joy!


But I digress, so, why starlings, specifically?


If you’ve read the “about us” section, (GREAT!) bare with me as I quickly recap:


Have you ever seen Starlings gather in a beautiful display of community called a murmeration? It is formed by individual birds who unite for a purpose*, in their case, to protect from a predator. There is safety in numbers so instinctively, instead of scattering, they provide support by all coming together. They say one bird's movement only affects its 7 closest neighbors, quickly creating a domino affect involving a huge supportive flock.

*Research hypothesizes that the purpose of a murmeration (the sound made by the flap of the birds wings) is for warmth in the evening when they settle to roost and to protect from a predator. “Each bird interacts with, and moves according to, six or seven nearest neighbors and it is the proximity of those neighbors, as opposed to all birds within a fixed distance, which dictates individual movement”.


There can be thousands of birds who join a murmeration, but it starts with one bird who is connected with it’s closest 6-7 neighbors.


Connected. In close proximity. Community.


I love everything about that, even if it's just a hypothesis for now. I love the connection that starlings have during a murmeration. I love the idea of one individual bird being able to influence its closest 6-7 neighbors. And I especially love this image of that influence having a domino affect, turning into this huge supportive community.


I think we all know what community means. My kids tell me that ideas like together, friends, and caring come to mind. In my 6 year old’s words: “it’s a group of people who care for each other and the space they are in. Like, they take care of each person and they make sure the space is taken care of.” I thank his school for impacting his definition. But he went on to say “anywhere you are you become a part of a community. Like at home I’m in a community, at school, at the playground. All of us in Calgary are even in a community. And so if we are all in a community, we have to help take care of everyone”. Legit his words, not mine-even if he is still learning how to be apart of his communities, but hey, so am I. Yeah buddy, I like it!


When you look up the word community in the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the word “common” consistently appears (ie. people with common interests, common characteristic etc.) and with the word common we see the words “belonging to and relating to a community”. To belong and to relate we need to build relationships and we build relationships when we are in close proximity, like those clever starlings.


Connection in close proximity as a community are things I feel we need more of today in order to understand one another better, and for us to see our similarities, myself included in that we. And I think it's important to note that in "close proximity" means face to face: to see the emotions in someones eyes, to see the dimple in their smile, to see their eyes well up with tears, even if it is in passing with a quick hello-in close proximity. I want my kids to know that our similarities connect us, but if we are afraid of connecting with “different”, it is hard to see our similarities. But alright, in an attempt to not drag this conversation on, I will save that topic for another day.


In any case, the biggest thing I have learned since having children is that big actions and big personalities aren’t necessary for making these impactful connections or these big changes. Like the starlings during a murmeration, our small individual actions have the power to influence the next 6-7 people we interact with daily making for beautiful transitions within our communities. Supported communities starting with just one person. A murmeration, have you.


Connected. In close proximity. Community.


So, there you have it- starlings.



{The photo pictured was taken in 2004 in Rome. As no hard copy is available, it is literally a picture taken of the picture up in our home, so please excuse the poor quality. The youtube video below is the first murmeration I watched and fell in awe with}






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